Beatdown on the Banks: No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven Rocks No. 1 Wall in Statement-Making Opener
PISCATAWAY – The event was named “The Rumble on the Raritan”, but by the time the marquee Sunday night game at Rutgers University had concluded, Rumson-Fair Haven could have suggested another name.
The Beatdown on the Banks.
In a stunning, season-opening statement-making performance, Rumson, ranked No. 4 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, rocked No. 1 Wall, 35-0, in a Shore Conference American Division game to abruptly halt the Crimson Knights’ 20-game Shore Conference winning streak. The Bulldogs marched 66 yards on the game’s opening drive to take the lead and never looked back on their way to a thoroughly dominant victory.
Senior quarterback Colin Kennedy was one of the stars, rushing for 131 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries as Rumson showcased a power-rushing offense that Wall’s vaunted defense had no answer for. Kennedy also threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Scott Venancio. Senior running back Geoff Schroeder added 84 yards rushing and a touchdown on 17 carries.
As good as the Bulldogs' offense was, its defense was as good or better. With a front four led by senior defensive end Aiden Moriarty, a linebacker unit led by senior John Lista and a new-look secondary that played superbly, Rumson held Wall to just 35 yards of offense and one first down.
Not only was it Wall’s first loss to a Shore Conference team since Oct. 12, 2018, it was the program’s worst loss since a playoff defeat to Delsea in 2014.
This was a game Rumson’s senior class had waited two years for. When the current crop were sophomores, Wall beat them twice, including in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 3 sectional final.
“We wanted to play them last year and were devastated we didn’t get the shot,” Kennedy said. “We found about this game early and it was perfect, we didn’t want to start off against any other team. We wanted a shot against the best team in the Shore and we weren't going to let them get to 21 games in a row at our expense.”
Life without recent graduates Casey Larkin (RB/DB) and Logan Peters (QB/DB) did not get off to a very good start for a Wall team that still returned 17 starters, but the struggles Sunday night went beyond moving on from two of the program’s best players. Senior linebacker Charlie Sasso, the reigning SSN and New Jersey Defensive Player of the Year, looked significantly less than 100 percent, hobbling after nearly every play. Senior linebacker Colin Riley, a first-team All-Shore selection, left in the second half with an injury and was on crutches after the game. Their list of the walking wounded was long even before the game started.
Sunday night was about what Rumson did, however, even if many will focus on what Wall didn’t do. The Bulldogs forced the issue and it started in the trenches. The offensive line was outstanding in the run game and in pass protection against an excellent Wall front seven. Defensively, the numbers speak for themselves: 37 yards of offense, one first down, 1-for-13 passing, two turnovers.
“I think it was our play style, being aggressive, and our secondary played awesome,” said Lista, a returning first-team All-Shore linebacker. “Things really opened up for our linebackers because of our D-line. I can’t give enough credit to everyone who deserves it. We played as one unit.”
Rumson received to start the game and went 66 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead. The difference in the Bulldogs’ offense from recent seasons was readily apparent with the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Kennedy gashing Wall on quarterback runs. Wall had no answer for the zone-read game with Kennedy and Schroeder, and after Kennedy rumbled for 26 yards down to the 2-yard line, he punched it in with a quarterback sneak.
“That’s always a momentum builder,” said Rumson head coach Jerry Schulte. “You do that on the first drive and I think it gives you a big edge.”
Wall’s only first down of the game came on its first offensive series when senior quarterback Jake Davis connected with junior tight end Jaquari Medler for 14 yards on a third-and-10. Two plays later, Lista and senior defensive lineman Robert Thompson combined on a sack that put Wall behind the chains and resulted in a punt. From there, Rumson drove 60 yards on nine straight running plays to take a 14-0 lead. Kennedy had a 17-yard run to move the ball to the Wall 37-yard line and Schroeder had a 15-yard run to set up first-and-goal from the 9-yard line. Two plays later, Schroeder surged in for a 6-yard touchdown.
“We didn’t throw the ball until our second series. We ran the ball and scored twice without putting the ball in the air and that kind of speaks for itself,” Kennedy said. “(Our offensive line), they are like no other. They’re 250 pounds, all two or three-year starters except for one first-year starter, and every single play the hole was easy to see. For a guy in his first start, I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
Wall went three-and-out on its next possession and Rumson needed just one play thereafter to cash in. Wall botched the punt and the snap went past punter Max Oakley. He was able to chase it down in the end zone and somehow get off a decent punt, but Rumson still had great field position at the 32-yard line. On the first play, the Bulldogs went to the air for the first time and Kennedy hit Venancio in stride for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
After another three-and-out by Wall, Rumson started its fourth series at the 22-yard line. Kennedy and Schroeder once again led the way down the field and it was Kennedy who raced to the end zone on a 16-yard quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 to push the lead to 28-0 at halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, Kennedy put the finishing touches on the tremendous victory with a 42-yard touchdown run to make it 35-0, which pushed the button on the mercy rule and a running clock, something nobody thought was going to happen in a game between the two best public schools in the Shore Conference.
Many conclusions will be drawn from this game, but the reality is it is only Week 1 of a long season. Wall and Rumson could conceivably play two more times this season. The immediate focus for the Bulldogs, however, is another beastly opponent in just five days when No. 3 Donovan Catholic visits Borden Stadium.
“This is one of the greatest wins I’ve had in my life,” Lista said. “Losing to them twice my sophomore year, once in the state championship, I’m super excited. “But we have Donovan Catholic in four days and they’re one hell of a team. We have to get back and get ready and do all we have to do.”
As Sunday’s win exacted some revenge for what happened two years ago, it also reminded Lista of how that 2019 season began.
“Our sophomore year we beat Red Bank Catholic, a huge win when everybody thought we were going to lose, and it’s the same thing right now,” Lista said. “We just beat Wall as the underdog. That year (2019) we came out in Week 2 and lost to Wall, so we need to come out with the same mentality we had on this field. We need to keep that mental mindset.”
Rumson will have turned the page by Monday afternoon, but for those of us who don’t have to just yet, the Bulldogs’ performance against Wall, doing to them what no team had in quite some time, won’t soon be forgotten.
No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven 35, No. 1 Wall 0
|Wall (0-1, 0-1)||0||0||0||0||0|
|Rumson (1-0, 1-0)||7||21||7||0||35|
Colin Kennedy 2-yard run (Justin Worobel kick)
Geoff Schroeder 6-yard run (Justin Worobel kick)
Colin Kennedy 32-yard pass to Scott Venancio (Justin Worobel kick)
Colin Kennedy 16-yard run (Justin Worobel kick)
Colin Kennedy 42-yard run (Justin Worobel kick)
RUSHING – W: Jake Davis 9-20, Colin Riley 4-12, Matt Dollive 3-(-9); RFH: Colin Kennedy 12-131, Geoff Schroeder 17-84, Dan Garvey 4-16, Alister Orr 3-5, Nick Costello 1-(-1), Team 1-(-34).
PASSING – W: Jake Davis 1-13-1, 14; RFH: Colin Kennedy 5-6-0 71.
RECEIVING – W: Jaquari Medler 1-14; RFH: Scott Venancio 2-39, Nick Rigby 1-14, Geoff Schroeder 1-10, Nick Marchakitus 1-8.
INTERCEPTIONS – RFH: Brian Doherty 1-0.