Shutting The Door: Rumson’s Defense Continues Incredible Title Game Legacy
UNION — During Rumson’s fantastic run over the last five seasons, one that has now delivered three NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II titles in four appearances, the constant theme has been a defense that has been pretty much perfect.
What Rumson has accomplished on the defensive side of the ball in all four games is astonishing. Throw any superlative out there for what Rumson has done to powerful offenses under the direction of longtime coordinator Jerry Schulte, and you wouldn’t be overdoing it.
“That’s what we do in the state final,” Rumson head coach Bryan Batchler said. “We play great defense.”
The word great is even an understatement. In four trips to a sectional final since 2010, Rumson’s defense has allowed just one offense touchdown. One touchdown. In 16 quarters of state championship football.
“I give all the credit in the world to coach Schulte,” said senior defensive tackle Ben Eisenstadt. “The man’s a genius.”
Schulte was selected last year as the Shore Sports Network Defensive Coordinator of the Year.
“That’s the thing, all week our coaches work tirelessly to prepare us for the game,” said junior defensive back Matt Waters, who had a 53-yard fumble return for a touchdown during the Bulldogs’ 21-0 victory over Delaware Valley on Saturday at Kean for their second straight sectional championship. “No matter what happens they always have a plan.”
Saturday’s defensive gem came against a rare offense, as Delaware Valley runs the run-exclusive single-wing. The Terriers carried 33 times for 119 yards, an average of 3.6 yards per rush. Not awful numbers, but when all you do is run the ball those numbers aren’t nearly enough to win. The Bulldogs did such a good job containing quarterback Joey Donnelly and running back Jesse Neighbour that the Terriers were forced to attempt 12 passes.
After the game, Rumson's defensive players all credited their scout team for learning Delaware Valley’s offense and simulating it in practice. It was a complete team effort in the truest sense of the term in that players that didn’t even see the field Saturday night still made an impact.
Rumson’s dominance in title games has been about keeping the opposition out of the end zone, and its been nearly flawless in that category. It began in 2010 when the Bulldogs stunned powerhouse Matawan and its lethal offense. Rumson won 13-7 for its first sectional title in program history, stifling a prolific offense centered around dual-threat quarterback Jared Allison, who went on to play at the University of New Hampshire. Allison’s punt return touchdown late in the fourth quarter was the only score the Huskies could muster.
The next season Matawan would get its revenge, but it came because of its own defensive masterpiece in a 3-0 shutout. Two games, no offensive touchdowns allowed for the Bulldogs.
Last season Weequahic entered the state sectional final averaging 45 points per game with lethal playmakers all over the field. The Indians finally cracked Rumson’s defense, but all they got were six points. Rumson won 14-6 for its second state title and first under Batchler, who took over for Shane Fallon after the 2012 season.
This season they pitched their first shutout in their fifth trip to a state final, holding down a Delaware Valley team playing in its first NJSIAA sectional final.
“Coach Schulte and I have been together for 10 years, I was the defensive backs coach so he’s been my boss for a long time and we work so well together,” Batchler said. “His son Jeremy and Bill Lagrotteria do a great job on the defensive line and coach (Charlie) O’Brien, who played for us on our 2007 team, does a great job in the secondary. But it’s all about the kids. They’re so smart and they do such a nice job.”
Another state final, another defensive masterpiece by Rumson. The Bulldogs will graduate some key players off the unit, including defensive tackle Ben Eisenstadt, linebacker Tucker Briggs, defensive backs Jackson Reid and Sam Eisenstadt, but will return seven starters led by a loaded sophomore class to make a run at a third straight sectional title.
“It’s a great system and it’s so great to be a part of it,” Batchler said. “We’ve got two down and hopefully a couple more to go.”