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BASKING RIDGE – Through 11 games this season, Rumson-Fair Haven’s boys lacrosse team has squared off against several of the best teams New Jersey has to offer and each time has emerged with an impressive victory. Saturday afternoon offered another opportunity for the Bulldogs to make a statement, and once again they showed they are as good as any team in the state.

Senior attackman Luke Devlin scored four goals, junior attackman Christian Bockelmann scored three goals and dished out two assists and senior goalie Ryan Croddick made seven saves to backstop an outstanding defensive performance as Rumson, ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and No. 6 in the state, put its foot on the gas and never let up to pull away for a 10-3 victory over No. 14 Ridge.

After Rumson took a 2-0 lead in the latter half of the first quarter, the host Red Devils scored the next three goals to pull ahead early in the second quarter. From there, it was all Rumson as the Bulldogs (11-0) stifled Ridge’s offense and closed the game with eight unanswered goals. Sophomore attackman Bennett Raphalian added two goals and senior midfielder Patrick Jamin contributed a goal and an assist.

Defensively, RFH put on a clinic against a talented Ridge squad. The starting four of senior Jack Joyce and sophomores Matthew Bockelmann, Beau Kemler and Luke Jamin, plus junior John Lista, allowed very few quality scoring chances while also forcing turnovers with active stickwork. Their excellence was spotlighted on Rumson’s man-down unit, which went a perfect 5-for-5 killing a total of 4:30 of penalty time. Ridge managed just 16 shots for the game, including 10 over the final three quarters and just two in the final 12 minutes.

It all added up to Rumson’s fourth win over a state top-20 team this season.

"As a top-10 team in the state we're going to get everyone's best game so they came out firing and we just had to adjust to their scheme," Croddick said. "We did a very good job of that."

"One of our things has been to get off to a hot start each half," Devlin said. "We like to play fast and get a couple of goals in. And our defense and our goalie; no second-half goals really speaks to our defense. I don't think we've allowed more than six goals in a game this year. We're just really complete as an offense and a defense."

"Honestly, we try to give them a little bit of a framework to go with and get out of their way," said Rumson head coach Marc Moreau.

Indeed, the Bulldogs have been humming along quite nicely ever since they opened the season with a 9-4 takedown of Chatham that began their ascent from unranked to No. 6 in New Jersey. They've done it with a deep and balanced offense that has veterans Luke Devlin, Patrick Jamin and Christian Bockelmann leading the way and with sophomores Cole Cashion and Bennett Raphalian and juniors Dan Garvey and Phillip Passalaqua providing meaningful contributions.

"They were trying to put shorties on us but everyone one of us can dodge," Devlin said. "We have a really good mix of veteran and some very good sophomores, and it really puts pressure on a defense. I think our offense is really special."

The most goals Rumson's defense has allowed all season came in an 11-7 win over St. Augustine when the Hermits were ranked No. 9 in the state back on April 26. The Bulldogs have allowed four goals or less in nine of their 11 games. Their poles have been excellent, their defensive midfielders have done their job and they have one of the best goalies around in Croddick, who has a marvelous 73 percent save percentage this season.

"We have a young group back there but we have a lot of confidence in them," Croddick said. "We have a very good team defense so we just slide and rotate around and it's pretty effective."

"Again, the credit goes to the kids, they're out there and they're doing it," Moreau said. The defensive coaches, coach (Steve) Danyluk and coach (Chris) Quinn, do a great job scouting and giving them what their opponents' tendencies are, but they still have to go out and execute and do it. There have been plenty of years where we tell them and the result isn't the same but these guys absorb it. You can hear them talking through things in practice and they're talking through the same things in the games, and that preparation carries over. They've been like that since the first game of the year."

Let's not forgot the face-off work of senior Tommy Swain in this equation. Swain was 11-for-15 on Saturday and has been superb this season in winning 68 percent of his draws at the face-off X.

About the only thing Rumson didn't do to near perfection was matching the early intensity of Ridge. Devlin busted his way inside and scored with 4:55 left in the first quarter for a 1-0 lead and then scored a similar goal on the inside at 2:20 to put the Bulldogs ahead, 2-0. It was shaping up to be a shutout quarter for RFH until Jack Turner beat Croddick and the buzzer with a shot that found the back of the net with all zeros on the clock.

Turner's goal was the start of a quick three-goal run for the Red Devils. Will Ehret then tied the game at two when defenseman Zach Harrison entered the zone on a clear and dished to the open man at 10:24 of the second quarter. Ridge went ahead 3-2 at 9:01 when Lucas Hudkins scored off an assist from Ehret. The lead would be short-lived for Ridge, however. Less than a minute later, Raphalian dodged to the middle of the field and unleashed a left later into the top corner that tied the game at three. He then gave RFH the lead for good when he corralled the rebound of a Bockelmann shot that hit the crossbar and whistled it past Ridge goalie Kenny Sinofsky with 3:25 left in the first half.

"I don't know that we came out right away and were dialed in mentally but a lot of that has to do with Ridge and the way they came out," Moreau said. "They play in the Skylands Conference, they don't have an easy game, they're used to coming out and giving their best effort every single day and, they're good. We talked to our guys about that we're not sneaking up on anybody. Everybody is ready to play us and we have to match that and I'm not so sure we did out of the gate, but we got there eventually and played with a lot more composure, especially, offensively, in the second half.

After Raphalian gave Rumson the lead, Bockelmann scored his first goal of the game just 29 seconds later and the Bulldogs took that 5-3 lead into the halftime break. Devlin scored the only goal of the third quarter off a fantastic pass from Bockelmann with 2:21 on the clock, but it was a dominant quarter for Rumson despite scoring only once. The constant grinding and leaning on Ridge showed in the fourth quarter when the flood gates burst wide open. Rumson outshot Ridge 17-2 in the fourth and scored four goals to put the game away.

"We went to our 10-man (ride) in the second half and that caused problems for them and also helped our defense," Moreau said. "We extend them a little bit but they play a lot fewer settled possessions because when (Ridge) had the ball they were very deliberate. With no shot clock it's tough to grind of those defensive possessions time after time so we felt like at halftime we needed to speed up the game. I think that made a big difference but the biggest difference was that we valued the ball more on the offensive end of the field."

To say Rumson will be the favorite in the upcoming Shore Conference Tournament would be an understatement, even with fellow state top-20 teams Manasquan and Christian Brothers Academy certainly capable of making a championships run (and in Manasquan's case looking to win its fourth straight SCT).

Rumson is the only Shore Conference boys lacrosse program to win a group state title and the goal this season is to add another state championship trophy to their collection. A date with Summit in the Group 2 title game seems imminent. The Hilltoppers are New Jersey lacrosse royalty, also undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the state. It would be a challenging game, of course, but Rumson has proven it is among the state's elite.


Box Score

Rumson-Fair Haven 10, Ridge 3


Rumson (11-0)231410
Ridge (6-3)12003


GOALS – RFH: Luke Devlin 4, Christian Bockelmann 3, Bennett Raphalian 2, Patrick Jamin: R: Jack Turner, Will Ehret, Lucas Hudkins.

ASSISTS – RFH: Christian Bockelmann 2, Patrick Jamin; R: Will Ehret, Zach Harrison.

SAVES – RFH: Ryan Croddick, 7; R: Kenny Sinofsky, 14

SHOTS: Rumson, 41-16.



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