Running Game and Defense Lead St. John Vianney Past Rumson
HOLMDEL — Any questions regarding how St. John Vianney would respond if its passing game was taken away were answered on a stormy Friday night.
The Lancers, ranked No. 4 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, proved they are an all-weather team by defeating fifth-ranked Rumson-Fair Haven 13-6 in a crucial Shore Conference Class A Central game on a miserable night of wind and rain on St. John Vianney’s artificial turf.
Senior quarterback Anthony Brown threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Marcque Ellington and junior linebacker Tyler Tedeschi made a great special teams play to set up Calvin Beaty’s go-ahead touchdown run in the second half as the Lancers (4-0, 3-0) took a major step toward the division title.
“Everybody told us we only have a passing game and can only throw the ball,” Brown said. “Nobody pays attention to our (offensive) line and everybody else.”
“We were kind of surprised with a lot of the predictions saying the weather would play to Rumson’s behalf,” said St. John Vianney head coach Derek Sininsky. “If we didn’t have Anthony at quarterback we could really run the ball and be very effective, but we have a quarterback and many receivers so our running game gets hidden a little.”
With a dynamic offense led by Brown, a Boston College recruit who led the Shore Conference in passing yards last season and also ran for over 800 yards, St. John Vianney appeared it would get the worst of the weather conditions Friday night. With the wind and rain making it difficult to throw the ball, it looked like that would be an advantage for Rumson, which employs a run-heavy offense. Instead it was St. John Vianney using a power running game and a tenacious defense to come away with an important victory.
“We prepared for it in practice, staying outside in the rain and trying to throw the ball,” Brown said. “But today it was different. The wind was blowing a lot harder and it was raining harder. Today we knew we had to have a big push up front and run the ball.”
The Lancers did exactly that, moving the ball on the ground with junior running back Chris Chukwuneke and Brown leading the charge.
“We are very confident in our offensive line and our running game,” Sininsky said.
Even with all the wind and rain making for terrible playing conditions, it didn’t stop St. John Vianney from making one huge play in the passing game. That came in the second quarter when Brown, with the wind at his back, dropped in a perfect pass to a streaking Ellington for a 75-yard touchdown that tied the game 6-6. Exactly that type of play seemed impossible to complete Friday night, but somehow Brown made it happen.
“I didn’t know how hard the wind was going to be blowing at the time, and as soon as I dropped back I feet the wind pushing a little so I tried to not put so much on it,” Brown said. “The wind kind of carried it through the air and it landed in his hands.”
“We had the wind at our back and we were just hoping Anthony didn’t overthrow it,” Sininsky said. “Marcque had one-on-one coverage on the back side and it was a great throw and a great catch.”
The big play was just the elixir St. John Vianney needed after Rumson had taken a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter.
“It was a very big lift,” Tedeschi said. “We all went crazy and it picked up our spirits going into the half. We cane out ready to punch them in the mouth and take the lead.”
The Lancers did in fact take the lead in the third quarter after Tedeschi sacked Rumson punter Tom Chapin to set up Beaty’s touchdown. Rumson was punting from its own 45-yard line and the snap back to Chapin bounced to him on one hop. He bobbled the wet ball slightly, but that was enough time for Tedeschi to whip around the edge and drop him for a big loss and a turnover on downs.
St. John Vianney took over on the Rumson 27 and used the short field to take the lead for good on Beaty’s 3-yard touchdown plunge. Joe Rice kicked the extra point for the seven-point lead.
“I came off the edge and when I saw him bobble it I knew I didn’t have to go for the block, I could just tackle him,” Tedeschi said.
“In this game we felt it wasn’t going to be possible to punt and they would most likely go for it on fourth down because of the weather conditions,” Tedeschi added. “We weren’t really expecting it but we said why not go for (the block). Even if we miss it we get good field position.”
St. John Vianney’s defense also showed its ability to go toe-to-toe with a potent rushing attack. Aside from a few long runs by Rumson quarterback Mike O’Connor, the Bulldogs couldn’t get much going outside of their first-quarter scoring drive. The Lancers also came up with a few fourth down stops, including a goal line stand in the second half after Rumson had first-and-goal at the 5-yard line.
Rumson entered the game having recorded two straight shutouts to start the season and looked to have an advantage in the bad weather because of their running game and physical defense. St. John Vianney proved that beyond the glitz and glamour of its aerial attack is a hard-nosed team that can win in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
“They are a great football team, you can’t take that away from them,” Brown said of Rumson. “They are a great program with great tradition, but today I feel we kind of took their role in the game.”
On a perfect weather day maybe things play out differently. Maybe St. John Vianney’s offense unleashes all its weapons and lights up the scoreboard. Perhaps that’s the case, but getting past their biggest obstacle to a division title in less than ideal conditions showed the Lancers something about their resolve.
“Today we bonded,” Brown said. “We found out who we really are.”