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When you coach boys lacrosse at Rumson-Fair Haven High School you are going to have a talented roster to mold each and every year. That was the case again in 2021, but Marc Moreau needed just a couple practices with this group to realize they were also different.

“We said it from almost the second practice of the year, we felt like this is a group where we don’t have to coach effort, and when you don’t have to coach effort you can coach them to be the best lacrosse players they can be,” Moreau said.

Effort was certainly not an issue for Rumson, nor was its execution. The Bulldogs turned in one of the best seasons in Shore Conference history and for that, we are recognizing Moreau as the 2021 Shore Sports Network Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year. Rumson won another Class B North division title, cruised to its conference-high seventh Shore Conference Tournament championship, won its fifth NJSIAA state sectional title, won more games (20) than any team in New Jersey, and finished ranked No. 5 in the final statewide top 20 rankings.

Expectations are always high for Rumson’s lacrosse team and this group, guided by Moreau, delivered arguably the greatest season in program history.

“Honestly, we tried to give them a little bit of framework go to with and then get out of their way,” Moreau said after a game during the season. “They go out there and get after it every day. You see in games how they go after ground balls and that’s something they do every day in practice against each other without a lot of prodding. It’s fun to coach a bunch of guys who have that attitude and mindset. They brought it every day.”

Coming off a 14-10 season in 2019 and with several new faces penciled into prominent roles, Rumson started the season ranked No. 2 in the SSN Top 10 behind Manasquan but unranked in the NJ.com state top 20. It took the Bulldogs all of one week to show everyone what kind of team they were.

On opening day, Rumson went on the road and took down No. 15 Chatham, 9-4. Chatham would go on to win the NJSIAA Group 3 state title. Two days later, RFH traveled to Oradell and was even more impressive in a 13-6 victory over No. 10 Bergen Catholic. It was obvious by this point that Rumson was a top-10 team in the state, but they were far from done. After a resounding Shore Conference nondivisional win over Howell, Rumson drove deep into South Jersey and clipped No. 7 St. Augustine, 11-7.

Rumson rose to No. 1 in the Shore and No. 6 in New Jersey shortly after and kept its foot on the gas pedal all the way to the end. They beat a very good Shore Regional team, 16-2, rocked South Group 3 sectional champ Ocean City, 12-2, and bulldozed state No. 14 Ridge, 10-3, in another impressive road performance.

Then came the Shore Conference Tournament where the Bulldogs rolled to wins over St. Rose and Red Bank Regional before earning a 10-6 victory over state No. 17 Wall in the semifinals. In the SCT championship game, Rumson started fast and pulled away from Shore No. 2 and state No. 12 Manasquan for an 11-4 win that ended ‘Squan’s three-year SCT reign and gave Rumson its seventh SCT title.

The NJSIAA South Group 2 sectional tournament was more of the same. RFH received a first-round bye and then overwhelmed Holmdel, 18-4, in the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs welcomed Allentown to Borden Stadium for the semifinals and authored a 20-5 victory that put them into the state sectional final against Wall. In the sectional final, Wall and Rumson played an instant classic. Senior attackman Luke Devlin scored the go-ahead goal with 5:43 left in regulation and the Bulldogs’ defense came up with timely stops down the stretch to deliver an 8-7 victory and RFH’s fifth sectional title in program history.

Since the midway point of the season, a clash between Rumson and Summit in the Group 2 final seemed imminent, and with the Bulldog’s sectional title locked up, the matchup was now a reality. Rumson was 20-0 and ranked No. 5 in the state and Summit was 16-0 and ranked No. 2 entering the game. The Hilltoppers jumped out to a 6-1 lead before Rumson rallied in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 6-5. That was as close as the Bulldogs would get, however, as Summit pushed its lead back to four goals and finished off a 9-6 victory to end Rumson’s season. Summit would go on to reach the Tournament of Champions final where it lost to Don Bosco Prep in the state final.

Rumson’s 2015 team set the bar in terms of historic wins by taking home the program’s first and only group state title, but this 2021 team was undeniably special. A division title, an SCT crown, a sectional championship, 20 wins, seven state top-20 victories; the state title was the only thing missing and it took a legendary program having a remarkable year to stop the Bulldogs.

There was talent and drive and of course excellent coaching, all the traits championship teams must possess. The characteristic that Moreau saw making the biggest difference was their selfless approach.

“I think the biggest thing is they’re egoless. We have guys you would characterize as stars but whatever six were out there on offense, anyone could score a goal and any six would not hesitate to throw the ball to one of the other guys. We were not setting up something for one or two guys, we were setting it up to take advantage of whatever we felt was to our advantage. That made them really hard to defend. And defensively, there wasn’t a bunch of guys trying to take the stick away and be overly aggressive and trying to be ‘the guy’. They played with a lot of composure at that end of the field.”

As Devlin said following the loss to Summit, "I'm not sad about the result, I'm sad it's over, sad we couldn't bring a title back to RFH. It bums me out, but we had a hell of a year. I couldn't be more proud of this group."

Surely, Moreau, too, is as proud as ever.

 

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