A Standard of Excellence: 2021 Rumson-Fair Haven High School Football Preview
All things considered, the 2020 season was a successful one for Rumson-Fair Haven’s football team. But at the same time, it was also a tale of what could have been.
A last-minute hook-and-lateral touchdown in a 26-19 loss to Mater Dei Prep in Week 5 knocked the Bulldogs out of the top Shore Conference postseason pod, preventing them from getting a possible rematch with Red Bank Catholic or potential showdowns with Wall or Donovan Catholic, and nixed a chance to finish the season as the top team in the conference.
Rumson closed strong, however, handing Colts Neck its only loss of the season and then shutting down an explosive Freehold offense to win their postseason. The end result was a 6-2 season, the No. 5 ranking in the final Shore Sports Network Top 10, and multiple players receiving All-Shore honors. Rumson’s streak of seasons with a winning record now stands at 21 in a row.
So where does that leave us for 2021? A boatload of top players have moved on through graduation, but that fact does not temper the excitement or expectations for the team that calls Borden Stadium its home. The Bulldogs have been bona fide state championship contenders for over a decade straight and that will once again be the goal this season.
Five starters return in Rumson’s Multiple Pro offense, led by an experienced offensive line that brings back four of five starters. It will be an all-senior line, as well, with returners Charlie Pearson at left tackle, Patrick Malpass at left guard, George Clough at center and Christian Smith at right guard. Seniors Dan Gredel and Griffin Volk are competing for the starting right tackle spot.
Senior running back Geoff Schroeder is a unique player in that he has never been the full-time feature back but has been an invaluable ball-carrier who has started multiple games since his sophomore year. He had a 26-carry, 113-yard game vs. Toms River North as a sophomore when starter John Volker was out with an injury so he has proven he can be the guy when called upon. Last season had had at least six carries in all seven games he played in and finished with 235 yards and two touchdowns.
Rumson usually has two or even three running backs get carries through the course of a game so expect senior Dan Garvey and maybe even junior Ryan Kalman to get touches on a regular basis.
Senior Colin Kennedy appears poised to take over as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback after serving as the backup to Josh Harmon last season. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound signal-caller has a very good offensive line in front of him but will be throwing to an entirely new group of pass-catchers. There is good size among the group of wide receivers with seniors Nick Marchakitus (6-foot-1, 180) and Jack McCarren (6-foot-3, 195) and skyscraping sophomore Markus Brown (6-foot-7, 190), plus sophomore Nick Rigby (6-foot, 160), junior Scott Venancio (5-foot-7, 165) and senior Isaac Torine (5-foot-10, 160).
The tight ends, seniors Aiden Casuccio and Jackson Batchler, both check-in at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds.
Rumson returns three of the Shore’s best defenders in senior linebackers John Lista and Ryan McKay and senior defensive end Aidan Moriarty, but those three are the only returning starters in head coach Jerry Schulte’s 4-3 defense. Moriarty has two very good years under his belt and the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder is coming off a junior season in which he had 60 tackles and a team-high seven sacks. Sizeable junior Marshal Halfacre (6-foot-3, 225) will be the other defensive end while the interior of the line looks to be a four-man rotation.
Lista, a first-team All-Shore selections last season, leads the linebacking corps from his outside linebacker spot while McKay mans the middle. Lista recorded a team-high 75 tackles along with 4 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries last season while McKay finished with 57 tackles. Junior Joh Thomas and sophomore Hudson Skove, who had a big freshman year on the wrestling mat, are working at the other outside linebacker spot.
The secondary will be an all-new unit with seniors Owen Sullivan and Brian Doherty as the corners, junior Ryan Kalman and senior Alex Cady working at strong safety and junior Beau Kemler, who was a first-team All-Shore lacrosse player this past spring, is the starting free safety.
The Bulldogs once again have an outstanding regular-season schedule that includes American Division foes Wall, Donovan Catholic, Colts Neck and Toms River North, plus non-division games again rival Red Bank Catholic and what should be a solid Lacey team. Although it doesn’t make it any easier, Rumson is used to the grind at this point. You don’t become one of New Jersey’s most consistent programs without being able to overcome adversity.
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
Offense: Multiple Pro
Returning starters: 5
QB: Colin Kennedy, Sr.; Nick Costello, Jr.
RB: Geoff Schroeder, Sr., 3RS; Dan Garvey, Sr.
WR: Nick Marchakitus, Sr.; Jack McCarren, Sr.; Markus Brown, So.; Nick Rigby, So.; Scott Venancio, Jr., Isaac Torine, Sr.
TE: Aiden Casuccio, Sr.; Jackson Batchler, Sr.
LT: Charlie Pearson, Sr., RS
LG: Patrick Malpass, Sr., RS
C: George Clough, Sr., RS
RG: Christian Smith, Sr., RS
RT: Dan Gredel, Sr.; Griffin Volk, Sr.
Returning starters: 3
DE: Aiden Moriarty, Sr., RS
DT: Cooper Bunnell, So.; Robbie Thompson, Sr.
DT: Jack Sullivan, Sr.; Julien Devlin, Jr.
DE: Marshal Halfacre, Jr.
OLB: John Lista, Sr., 3RS
MLB: Ryan McKay, Sr., 3RS
OLB: John Thomas, Jr.; Hudson Skove, So.
CB: Owen Sullivan, Sr.
CB: Brian Doherty, Sr.
SS: Ryan Kalman, Jr.; Alex Cady, Sr.
FS: Beau Kemler, Jr.
K: Justin Worobel, Sr., RS
P: Jackson Gallagher, So.
Head coach: Jerry Schulte, sixth season (20th overall)
Career record: 100-92-1 (41-14 at RFH)
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: John Corneliusen (Offensive Coordinator/QB); Jeremy Schulte (Defensive Coordinator); John Wagner (Special Teams/DB); Rich Mosca (DL); Matt Walsh (Special Teams/DB); Joe Murphy (OL); Chris Quinn (WR); Kyle Marinelli (LB/JV DC); Mike Zadlock (DL/K); John Andl (RB); Brandon Wall (OL/JV OC); Jerry Gagliano (Freshmen Head Coach); John Belivance (Freshmen asst.); Jay Clark (Freshmen asst.); Rob Orrok (Strength & Conditioning); Alex Stein (Athletic Trainer).
Player to Watch: John Lista, Sr., LB
Lista debuted as a starter during his sophomore year and last season earned first-team All-Shore designation as one of the conference’s top linebackers. Production and leadership will be vital assets for a Bulldogs’ defense that will be breaking in several new starters.
Player Under the Radar: Geoff Schroeder, Sr., RB
Schroeder may not have been the No. 1 running back the past two seasons but he is an experienced veteran who has answered the call when Rumson has needed him to step up. With a big, physical and experienced offensive line in front of him, Schroeder could be the next RFH running back to have a huge season.
Impact Newcomer: Colin Kennedy, Sr., QB
Throughout its incredible run which includes an active streak of appearing in seven straight NJSIAA sectional championship games, Rumson has had quarterbacks who have managed the game very well. It’s not about flashy stats, but about making plays in big spots. If Kennedy can do as his predecessors have, Rumson’s offense could be lethal.
Top Position Group: Offensive line
Any time a team can come into the season with an experienced offensive line it is going to be ahead of the curve. The Bulldogs return senior starters Charlie Pearson, Patrick Malpass, George Clough and Christian Smith from left to right and have two more seniors, Dan Gredel and Griffin Volk, competing at right tackle. With offensive line coach Joe Murphy, one of the best in the Shore, guiding the group they should be tone-setters from the opening kickoff.
Big Shoes to Fill: The safeties
Ryan Ruane was a three-year starter and a two-time first-team All-Shore defensive back for the Bulldogs during his excellent career. The entire secondary graduated but the void left by Ruane is clearly the most glaring. Ruane was more of a strong safety but was versatile enough to play center field and come down and become an extra linebacker of sorts. The current safeties are Ryan Kalman and Alex Cady at strong safety and Beau Kemler at free safety.
X-Factor: Staying Healthy
Injuries have derailed Rumson a bit over the past two seasons, and when there is little margin for error due to the challenging schedule it compounds the need to stay healthy. The first two weeks will be especially important with games against Wall and Red Bank Catholic in a span of five days.
Sunday, Sept. 5 – vs. Wall at Rutgers, 8 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 10 – vs. Donovan Catholic, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 24 – vs. Lacey, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 1 – vs. Toms River North, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 9 – at Colts Neck, 12 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 15 – vs. Red Bank Catholic, 7 p.m.
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