BRICK - Shrouded by the combination of a prominent running game and a fierce defense that both tend to dominate their share of weekend headlines, Collin Coles has modestly carved his niche for Rumson-Fair Haven while inexplicably avoiding deserved fanfare.

The 6-3, 210-pound junior quarterback is a picture of poise in the pocket, going about his business in relative anonymity despite an accurate and efficient right arm that begs a piece of your attention. Coles will be the first to deflect praise upon senior Alex Maldjian, the focal point of the Bulldogs’ ground attack, and shower bouquets of appreciation toward a superior 4-2-5 defensive scheme, each responsible for relieving some of the burden off his capable shoulders. However, the soft-spoken signal caller would be the last to lionize his own accomplishments.

No worries. There are plenty of those familiar with Coles happy to sing their positive appraisals on his behalf.

“Collin is a very good quarterback. People just don’t realize it,” said Rumson coach Jerry Schulte. “We do run a lot and Alex is having a great year, but Collin is right there with the best around. He’s very confident in what he does.”

“He can sling the football,” added senior inside linebacker Keegan Woods. “You can see his confidence in every throw he makes.”

That self-assuredness gained more traction Friday night. With the Shore Conference, Colonial Division title at stake, Rumson suffered a significant blow when Maldjian temporarily exited the Bulldogs’ showdown with Brick early in the second quarter due to injury. Coles’ response was to seamlessly fill the void…and the air, accentuating his finest individual attributes by tossing a pair of touchdown passes to complement another signature performance by the Dawgs’ snarling defense that punctuated a 13-0 victory to secure an outright division crown.

“Alex is a great running back for us who is always producing,” noted Coles, who offset two interceptions by delivering seven-yard scoring strikes to tight end Ian O’Connor and wide receiver Andrew Lawless in the first half, part of a 12-for-21 effort that reaped 116 yards. “Injuries are going to happen. I needed to rise up, do what I could and meet my coaches’ expectations.”

The two picks were rare miscues for Coles, marking the first interceptions he’s thrown this fall in an otherwise impeccable campaign. Completing at an impressive 67.6 rate, he has thrown for 644 yards and eight TDs on 44-of-65 precision.

“I wouldn’t say it’s overlooked but it’s definitely not something to scoff at,” Coles said of Rumson’s aerial endeavors, which were dispersed among five different resources. “We have some very good wide receivers and, if I can get them the ball, they are going to catch it. They are no joke.”

Neither is Rumson’s defense, which pitched its first shutout of the season. The move to a 4-2-5 was aimed to tap some of the unit’s best qualities, notably its collection of versatility, speed and relentless physicality. Playing on its aggressive nature from start to finish, the group meshed to limit Brick to a mere 91 yards of total offense, including minus 18 rushing.

"We have a lot of athletes that can play and cover the entire field in the blink of an eye," said RFH defensive coordinator Jeremy Schulte, who has put together an ensemble that's surrendering 6.8 points an outing. "This is the type of atmosphere they thrive in."

The Dawgs (5-0, 5-0) hunted in a pack and spread their bounty equally amongst themselves. Woods stuck his nose into a dozen tackles, senior defensive back Ryan Dupree blocked a punt and recovered a fumble, junior linebacker Gordon Forsyth collected a sack and forced a fumble, junior defensive back Ryan Ruane halted Brick’s best threat with a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone and sophomore defensive lineman Von Factor added a sack.

“I think we’re the most physical defense out there,” said Woods. “We bring the tempo, hit hard and have guys all over the field making plays. I don’t think there are many offenses we can’t stop.”

Brick’s defense deserved credit for keeping the Green Dragons (3-2, 3-2) within striking distance for most of the evening. It blocked a field-goal attempt by Coles on Rumson’s opening drive of the game, got rousing efforts from senior linebackers Richie Tallmadge and Dylan DeAlmeida as well as interceptions from defensive backs Jimmy Leblo and Shane Williams.

However, Rumson tipped things in its favors thanks to two big plays by Dupree. He pounced on a fumble with 5:44 left in the first quarter, which gave way to a 14-play, 66-yard march finished with Coles finding O’Connor in the back of the end zone with a minute to go in the period.

Dupree blocked a Brick punt with 3:09 remaining in the first half, setting Rumson up at midfield. A 19-yard completion to senior wide receiver Jackson McCarthy, coupled with a middle screen to junior running back Pete Crowley that gained 22 more, led to Coles firing a seven-yard touchdown pass to Lawless with 1:34 showing.

Despite missing the majority of the second quarter, Maldjian returned to action in the third and finished with 116 yards on 24 carries and the Bulldogs piled up 262 yards of offense. Junior quarterback Anthony Prato went 6 of 18 passing through the air for Brick, good for 97 yards with Williams accounting for 92 of those on four receptions.

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