MANASQUAN - With one of the state's best running backs already having racked up 267 yards and three touchdowns for Rumson-Fair Haven, all eyes were on Charlie Volker when the Bulldogs lined up for a huge play on third-and-goal in the final seconds of a tie game with host Manasquan on Saturday afternoon.

Bulldogs head coach Bryan Batchler decided to use that attention to his advantage, dialing up a pass play out of a timeout. Sophomore quarterback Mike O'Connor executed it to perfection when he hit 6-foot-4 senior tight end Kenny Ferrare on a play-action pass for an 8-yard score in the corner of the end zone with 16.8 seconds left in regulation to give the Bulldogs a thrilling 28-21 win over the Warriors at Vic Kubu Warrior Field to end a two-game losing streak.

"I thought Charlie was winded, and I thought obviously they were going to be keying on him,'' Batchler said. "We trust Mikey. He's a smart kid. I liked the call. I figured if we didn't make it, then we kick the field goal and play defense."

"We have an amazing quarterback, and he threw a perfect pass,'' Ferrare said. "I think it definitely created a little confusion for them. I think it was an excellent playcall."

Rumson-Fair Haven senior tailback Charlie Volker racked up 267 yards and three touchdowns in his first game back after a two-game absence from an ankle injury to help the Bulldogs edge Manasquan. (Photo by B51 Photography)

It was only the third completion of the game on four attempts for O'Connor, but it was the biggest play of the game in addition to being Ferrare's first varsity touchdown. It also marked the second straight season that the Bulldogs (3-2, 3-1), ranked No. 10 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, beat the Warriors (3-3, 2-2) with a touchdown inside the final minute of regulation.

"My coaches have definitely put in a lot of time and effort with me, and it has paid off,'' Ferrare said. "This is a big one for me. It's really exciting."

"I liked the playcall,'' O'Connor said. "Everyone knew they were going to key on Charlie, and it just opened up. It's a big confidence-builder for them to have the trust in me to throw that."

The victory also stamped the return of Volker, a Princeton recruit who had a huge day after missing two games, both losses, with a high ankle sprain.

"I wasn't 100 percent, but I was going to play like I was 100 percent, whether it hurt or not,'' Volker said about his ankle.

O'Connor capped the win with an interception as time expired on a desperation heave by Manasquan quarterback Liam Grieb. Only minutes earlier, the Warriors had made one of their patented late-game comebacks on their home field when they drove 75 yards on nine plays, which included a 10-yard pass by senior Tanner Cowley to wideout Matt Paturzo on a fake punt to keep the drive alive.

Freshman running back Connor Morgan bulled his way in from eight yards out for his third touchdown of the game and then Paturzo took a direct snap on the two-point conversion attempt and flipped it to Cowley, who ran around the left side and dove into the end zone to tie it at 21 with 2:51 left in the game.

Rumson recovered when junior Connor Kelly returned the ensuing kickoff to Manasquan's 40-yard line to put the Bulldogs in business with 2:38 left in the game.

"We keep calm, we don't let them get in our heads, and we keep  pushing,'' Ferrare said. "The game's not over until the whistle blows."

Three plays later, Volker broke a 27-yard run down the Manasquan sideline to the Warriors' 10-yard line, setting up Ferrare's eventual heroics.

Manasquan freshman running back Connor Morgan rushed for a career-high 133 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. (Photo by B51 Photography)

"I have a lot of faith in Kenny, and I knew that play worked before, so I thought that was a good call,'' Volker said.

Rumson had built a 13-7 halftime lead as Volker piled up 140 yards rushing and ran for scores of eight and 50 yards. Morgan began the best day of his promising career with a 54-yard touchdown run on his way to a career-high 133 yards rushing to keep the Warriors close at the break.

The Bulldogs extended the lead early in the second half when defensive lineman Ben Eisenstadt sacked Grieb at Manasquan's eight-yard line to kill a drive and help give Rumson great field position at the Warriors' 36-yard line after the ensuing punt. Two plays later, Volker bounced a run outside for a 22-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead with 7:17 left in the third quarter.

"He's the best running back in the state, and it opens up a lot for us,'' O'Connor said.

Manasquan's offense was sputtering before Grieb jumpstarted it when he hit Nick Jamie on a wheel route for a 50-yard gain to Rumson's 10-yard line at the end of the third quarter. Three plays later, Morgan plowed in from two yards out to cut the lead to 21-13 after the extra point was no good with 11:14 left in the game.

That set up the furious final three minutes, as the Bulldogs righted the ship after losses to No. 3 St. John Vianney and No. 5 Long Branch to boost their push for a high seed in Central Jersey Group II, where they are the defending champions.

"This was our first step getting out of the hole,'' Ferrare said.


Box score

Rumson-Fair Haven 28, Manasquan 21

.                           R                M

First downs          13              12

Rushes-yards    41-287       31-175

Passing                3-4-0        8-17-1

Passing yards       28            118

Fumbles-lost        1-0             2-0

Penalties              6-60           4-28


Rumson-FH (3-2, 3-1)  0  13 8 7 - 28

Manasquan (3-3, 2-2)  0   7  0 14 - 21


Scoring summary:

R: Volker 8-yard run (Morales kick).

M: Morgan 54-yard run (Sabins kick).

R: Volker 50-yard run (kick failed).

R: Volker 22-yard run (Moore pass from O'Connor)

M: Morgan 2-yard run (kick failed).

M: Morgan 8-yard run (Cowley run).

R: Ferrare 8-yard pass from O'Connor (Morales kick).

Individual statistics

Rushing - R: Volker 30-267, O'Connor 8-18, Hull 1-(-2), Vecchiarelli 1-4, Walsh 1-0. M: Morgan 12-133, McAlary 13-38, Morris 2-2, Grieb 2-(-5), Antonucci 1-3, Cowley 1-4.

Passing - R: O'Connor 3-4-0 28. M: Grieb 7-16-1 108, Cowley 1-1-0 10.

Receiving - R: McHeffey 2-20, Ferrare 1-8. M: Cowley 2-16, Hawkins 2-9, McAlary 1-(-2), Paturzo 2-45, Jamie 1-50.

Interceptions - R: O'Connor 1-5.