RUMSON – As Alex Maldjian sprinted down the visiting sideline with nothing but green turf in front of him the nightmare was unfolding for Red Bank Catholic. A once-solid two-touchdown lead had evaporated in a span of 90 seconds and Borden Stadium was rocking to its foundation.

Rumson-Fair Haven had bagged up all the momentum and tipped the scales in the blink of an eye. All that remained was the tying extra point, and with a solid kicker, an elite long snapper and a reliable holder, the Bulldogs had no reason to worry about the forthcoming kick.

Red Bank Catholic senior Jaden Key is known for being sure-handed as one of the Shore Conference’s top wide receivers and cornerbacks. His hands were the difference on Friday night, but in a completely different manner than usual.

Key darted off the edge and got his fingertips on the extra point try, getting enough of the ball to redirect it wide left as the Caseys, ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, held on for a sensational 14-13 nondivisional victory over No. 3 Rumson in an instant classic between the longtime rivals.

“The first time they ran it (on Rumson’s first touchdown) and the play got blown dead I noticed their wing was blocking down on our No. 2 guy and wasn’t leaving a leg (out), so I knew I could creep down more and get around the edge and block the kick,” Key said. “They have a good long snapper (Buffalo recruit Evan Davis) and I knew I had to get there quick. I was hoping I would get a fingertip on it and draw it off its path, and that’s what I did.”

“His football IQ you can’t even register so he’s one of those kids that goes beyond instincts and can see things schematically,” said Red Bank Catholic head coach Frank Edgerly. “And it’s a testament to him as a man after trying to chase a kid down for 80 yards a lot of people would say, ‘Let’s catch our breath and live for the next play’. He dug in and made a play that proved to be the difference in the game.”

A 14-0 Red Bank Catholic halftime lead had the Casey in control and it was a mostly sleepy second half until all hell broke loose in the final five minutes. A short punt gave Rumson (6-1) possession at the RBC 45-yard line with 8:49 left in the game and the Bulldogs were able to move to the 21-yard line. But on second down, junior linebacker Charlie Gordinier delivered a hit on Rumson quarterback Collin Coles that altered the path of the throw. The pass was deflected and Key was able to intercept it at the 12-yard line.

Rumson’s defense dug in to force a punt, and a pair of delay of game penalties on the Caseys had Ryan O’Hara punting from deep in the end zone. Rumson was bringing the heat on an attempted punt block so the Caseys had all their personnel in tight to defend. That left Rumson sophomore playmaker John Volker as the lone man back, and he was able to return the punt 45 yards for a touchdown to get Rumson on the board. Not so fast, however. Rumson was called for a block in the back, wiping out the touchdown in what looked to be a devastating call.

Despite the touchdown being negated, the Bulldogs still had excellent field position at the RBC 35-yard line. Maldjian and Rumson’s offensive line had found their rhythm at this point after a slow first half and he carried four straight times for 35 yards, eventually scoring from four yards out to make it 14-7 with 4:35 to play.

This is where things started to get insane.

Rumson went for an onside kick but RBC recovered at midfield. A few first downs could have ended the game but instead, sophomore safety Ryan Ruane leaped to intercept a Steve Lubischer pass on third-and-six, coming down with the pick after initially juggling the catch, to give Rumson the ball at its own 16-yard line. On the very next play, Maldjian ran through a huge hole and broke away from the Caseys’ defense for an 84-yard touchdown run. He ran right past Edgerly, who could only wonder what had just happened.

“That whole jaunt looked like it was in slow motion,” Edgerly said. “It was like a bad dream. I’m sitting there thinking, ‘This isn’t happening’.”

It was now 14-13 pending the extra point, but Key made sure it stayed that way with a special teams effort that will go down as a historic play in RBC football lore.

“We knew we had to block that if we were going to win the game,” Gordinier said. “I thought it was going in at first and when it went to the left it was like, ‘thank God’.”

The game was far from over at that point, however. Rumson senior linebacker Kevin Sheils recovered the onside kick to give the Bulldogs the ball back at midfield with just under three minutes to go. But then, on third-and-10, RBC senior defensive end Gino Tartamella perfectly diagnosed a screen pass and jumped the route for an interception with 2:11 on the clock.

Red Bank Catholic could not gain a first down to put the game away and elected to punt on fourth and three from the Rumson 40-yard line with 1:30 left. Disaster nearly happened for RBC when the snap on the punt was low and bounced to O’Hara. With Rumson’s defense bearing down on him he was able to get away a kick that skidded across the ground. The ball actually touched a Rumson player but the Bulldogs recovered the loose ball at their own 32-yard line with 1:17 to play.

Rumson had used all its timeouts on defense to preserve time, so the Bulldogs had to play fast. On fourth and seven, Coles hit Patrick Jamin for 18 yards out to midfield and then connected with Jackson McCarthy for 12 yards to the RBC 38-yard line. A 13-yard pass to Andrew Lawless followed and the Bulldogs quickly rushed to the line to spike the ball and stop the clock with 10 seconds left. Rumson ran a play from the 25-yard line but the pass to the sideline fell incomplete with 2.7 seconds left.

There was time for one final play and Rumson elected to send Coles out to attempt a 42-yard field goal. The difficult kick, which would have been the second-longest field goal in the Shore this season, was short and Red Bank Catholic rushed the field after surviving a furious comeback attempt by Rumson.

“It was amazing,” Key said. “From one perspective it was a great high school football game. From our perspective, it was an emotional roller coaster, so I’m just glad we got out with the win.”

“There were a lot of momentum swings at the end there,” Gordinier said. “We just had to keep fighting.”

“Every aspect of football was witnessed tonight,” Edgerly said. “You saw everything from special teams to offense to defense, hands teams on onside kicks. It was the things you practice and hope you never need them. Everything was thrown into the blender tonight.”

While the end of the game was hectic and chaotic, the beginning was everything Red Bank Catholic (7-0) could have hoped for. The Caseys deferred their choice to the second half after winning the coin toss and, keyed by a sack by senior Tommy Smith, forced Rumson to go three and out. RBC then marched 59 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead on Lubischer’s 9-yard touchdown pass to senior M.J. Wright.

RBC’s lead grew to 14-0 in the second quarter when Lubischer tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass to junior Sean Rossback. A sack by Tartamella on third down forced Rumson to punt and RBC took over at the RFH 45-yard line. A 12-yard catch by Wright converted a third-and-seven and Lubischer and Key connected on a great bench route for 15 yards on third-and-12 to keep the drive going. Key then brought in an 11-yard pass on third-and-7 to give the Caseys first and goal at the 8-yard line. A penalty pushed RBC back, but on third down Lubischer pumped fake to get the defensive back to bite and hit Rossback for the score.

Another three-and-out forced by the RBC defense gave the Caseys’ offense great field position at the Rumson 45 with 2:58 left in the half. The drive stalled at the 10-yard line but it still left O’Hara with a chip-shot 27-yard field goal attempt. Junior defensive back Drew Frankel was able to come off the edge and block the kick, however, planting the initial seeds for a Rumson comeback.

Red Bank Catholic received the second-half kickoff and went back to work to move into Rumson territory. A 15-yard run by Lubischer moved the ball to the 22-yard line, but on the next play Rumson defensive lineman Von Factor surged through the line and disrupted the mesh point between Lubischer and running back Billy Guidetti, forcing a fumble that was recovered by senior linebacker Christian Lanzalotto and returned to the RBC 47-yard line.

“What I felt was the turning point in the game was when we take that first possession of the second half and are going right down the field and then we fumble,” Edgerly said. “Although they did not convert that into points I felt if we could have got that touchdown there and opened it up to 21-0 the game’s going to play out differently. But when you’re playing a program like that they’re not going to go away. We’re fortunate that we haven’t turned the ball over much this year but we did there and it restored hope.”

A 30-yard run by Maldjian two plays after the fumble initially put the ball inside the 5-yard line, but a penalty on the run pushed the ball back to the RBC 19-yard line. On third down the snap went through Coles' hands and bounced back where he had to fall on it for a 16-yard loss. On fourth down, Coles’ pass for the end zone was intercepted by RBC senior safety Anthony Romano.

Friday’s game between the former longtime Thanksgiving rivals was the first since 2013 and Red Bank Catholic has now won 12 straight games against Rumson. The latest edition of the Two River Rivalry may have been the craziest of them all. It was a special night

“It was,” Edgerly said. “Hopefully we don’t have to wait five more years to do it again.”

 

Box Score 

No. 1 Red Bank Catholic 14, No. 3 Rumson-Fair Haven 13

 

  Red Bank Catholic Rumson-Fair Haven
First downs 14 10
Rushes-yards 40-140 24-173
Passing 13-19-1 11-25-3
Passing yards 146 83
Fumbles-lost 3-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 10-80 5-35

 

Red Bank Catholic (7-0) 7 7 0 0 14
Rumson-Fair Haven (6-1) 0 0 0 13 13

    

Scoring summary

RBC – M.J. Wright 9-yard pass from Steve Lubischer (Ryan O’Hara kick)

RBC – Sean Rossback 15-yard pass from Steve Lubischer (Ryan O’Hara kick)

RFH – Alex Maldjian 4-yard run (Collin Coles kick)

RFH – Alex Maldjian 84-yard run (kick blocked by Jaden Key)

 

Individual statistics

RUSHING – RFH: Alex Maldjian 21-204, Collin Coles 3-(-31); RBC: Billy Guidetti 21-65, Steve Lubischer 10-46, Steve Cmielewski 4-25, M.J. Wright 1-5, John Columbia 3-3, Team 1-(-4).

PASSING – RFH: Collin Coles 11-25-3 83; RBC: Steve Lubischer 13-19-1 146.

RECEIVING – RFH: Jackson McCarthy 2-28, Patrick Jamin 3-22, Ian O’Connor 3-17, Andrew Lawless 2-17, Peter Crowley 1-(-1); RBC: Jaden Key 4-46, Charlie Gordinier 2-36, M.J. Wright 5-48, Sean Rossback 1-15, Kevin Bauman 1-1

INTERCEPTIONS – RFH: Ryan Ruane 1-0; RBC: Anthony Romano 1-0, Jaden Key 1-0, Gino Tartamella 1-0.

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.

 

Sign Up For The SSN Newsletter

Please fill out this form to sign up for the Shore Sports Network newsletter.