RUMSON – The 2018 season has been anything but typical for the Shore Conference’s flagship program, but as the calendar creeps toward June the Bulldogs have once again played themselves into a familiar position: a state sectional championship game.

Sophomore midfielder Kiel Forlenza scored three times, senior midfielder Billy Garavente scored twice and Rumson’s defense held a high-scoring Wall offense to just six goals to come away with a 9-6 victory in the semifinals of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 2 playoffs on Wednesday night at Borden Stadium. Senior goalie Sean Bunnell made 10 saves while Wyatt Feinberg and Patrick Jamin each had a goal and an assist and Rowan Goldin and Jack Whitelaw scored one goal apiece.

The win puts Rumson into a sectional title game for the sixth straight season. The second-seeded Bulldogs will go for their fourth sectional title in program history and second in a row when they host eighth-seeded Somerville on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Young and inexperienced to start the year, the Bulldogs faced a brutal schedule, especially early in April. Rumson started off 1-5 but the tough competition has had the designed result of having the team ready for championship season.

“The seniors know about playing in big games so we just wanted to incorporate that to the younger guys and let them know our standard here is winning a state championship no matter if we have one senior or 20 seniors,” Garavente said. “That’s our main goal no matter who we have.”

“Obviously we’re a very young team, but I don’t feel that way anymore,” said defenseman Stephen Edler. “We have 22 games under our belt now and these guys have grown a tremendous amount. All the credit goes to the sophomores for really embracing the varsity level of competition and coming to practice and working to make sure they can play at the level they have to.”

In facing Wall, Rumson was going up against a team having its best season in program history and trying to advance to a sectional final for the first time. The teams met during the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals with Rumson winning, 10-9, and the Crimson Knights were amped for the rematch.

“Wall was coming in ready to kick our butts and we just had to match their intensity,” Garavente said. “They were going to come in from the opening face-off and give us all they had, and they did.”

The Crimson Knights (14-5) started the scoring when senior midfielder Will Forte scored unassisted at the 8:02 mark, but Rumson was able to score twice in the final three minutes on goals by Goldin and Garavente to take a 2-1 lead into the second quarter.

The game went back and forth in the second quarter, starting when Forte scored again with a turnaround overhead shot to tie the score at two with 7:20 left. Rumson responded less than 90 seconds later on a goal by Jamin but a rocket from McIntyre knotted the score again, 3-3, with 3:37 left in the half.

Garavente embodied the Bulldogs’ will to win on his team’s fourth goal, muscling through several Wall players on a clear before bulldozing his way to the crease and scoring with 1:52 on the clock to give Rumson a 4-3 halftime lead.

Just as they did in their quarterfinal win over Lacey, Rumson owned the second half. The Bulldogs scored all three goals in the third quarter, each of which came off the stick of Forlenza. He finished a nifty feed from Feinberg for an extra-man goal at 10:15, then scored another EMO goal when he somehow deflected a feed from Drew Shaw past Wall goalie Sean DeMott. With 3:56 left in the quarter, Forlenza completed the hat trick with an unassisted goal to put Rumson up 7-3 heading into the final 12 minutes.

Early in the fourth quarter, Whitelaw unleashed a laser off a pass from Shaw to put Rumson up 8-3. Wall was able to get two goals in a span of 18 seconds as Connor Prindiville and Logan Peters each found the back of the net to cut Rumson’s lead to 8-5, but Feinberg gave Rumson an insurance goal with 4:17 to play. Prindiville scored again with 1:54 left but Rumson was able to win the ensuing face-off and prevent Wall from rallying.

“All the credit goes to Wall, they’re a tremendous offense, but our guys really came to play and knew what was in front of us,” Edler said.

On the Bulldogs’ second-half surge, Edler said: “I think that goes to our depth. We have a great senior class to lead the younger guys and we have two full middie lines and some extra guys we feel confident in. We definitely had the fresh legs.”

Standing in Rumson’s way for another sectional title is a Somerville team that is, in some ways, in a similar position. The Pioneers are just 8-13 but have played a daunting schedule against many of the state’s best teams. They proved that by upsetting top-seeded Ocean City in the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs know all about a tough schedule, though. They set up games against the likes of Chatham, Moorestown, Seton Hall Prep, Watchung Hills, Westfield and St. Augustine to be prepared for games in late May.

“The brutal schedule definitely helped us,” Garavente said. “It showed us our strengths and weaknesses. We had a young team and with such great competition it really got us ready for these moments so we wouldn’t fade under pressure.”

The season has had its ups and downs, but Rumson is right where it wants to be.

“It would mean the world to us,” Garavente said. “We dedicated this entire season to [teammate Pierce Jarck, who passed away in the fall] and we’ve kept it going. The goal from March 1 was to win a sectional title.”

“We won last year but when the seniors were sophomores we lost to Manasquan [in the sectional final] and it still burns,” Edler said. “We’ve kept our focus and we’re still hungry.”


Box Score

Rumson 9, Wall 6

Wall (14-5)       1 2 0 3 – 6

Rumson (13-9) 2 2 3 2 – 9

GOALS – W: Will Forte 2, Connor Prindiville 2, Mike McIntyre, Logan Peters: RFH: Kiel Forlenza 3, Billy Garavente 2, Patrick Jamin, Wyatt Feinberg, Jack Whitelaw, Rowan Goldin.

ASSISTS – W: Mike McIntyre, Kyle Peters; RFH: Drew Shaw 2, Wyatt Feinberg, Patrick Jamin.

SAVES – W: Sean DeMott 5; RFH: Sean Bunnell 10

SHOTS: Wall, 33-30.


Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.


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