RUMSON - Two weeks ago, following a draining loss to Toms River North in overtime, Rumson-Fair Haven football coach Jerry Schulte intimated that his team's grueling schedule would either make them or break them over the course of the season.

Either the difficult games would sharpen their collective edge or the attrition that comes with playing one power program after another would take its toll.

If you asked junior defensive lineman Jack Kelly, he and his teammates had no doubt which outcome would apply to the Bulldogs.

Facing an early deficit against a second-ranked Mater Dei Prep team coming off its first loss of the season, No. 4 Rumson came alive in the second quarter and shut the Seraphs down en route to a 21-16 Shore Conference nondivisoinal win.

Rumson junior Jack Kelly (1) and senior Drew Frankel (21). (Photo by Robert Samuels)
Rumson junior Jack Kelly (1) and senior Drew Frankel (21). (Photo by Robert Samuels)

"We have a defense that is loud, that's flamboyant, that likes to talk trash," Kelly said. "Not to disrespect a very talented team over there but sometimes it comes down not to who has more talent but who wants it more. Who is willing to give it all just to win and I think tonight that was us."

Kelly led a defensive effort that held Mater Dei's offense without a point over the final 35:41 of the game and forced two critical turnovers that kicked the Bulldogs' momentum into overdrive.

The most explosive of the two turnovers was Kelly's 49-yard interception return for a touchdown that broke a 14-14 tie and staked Rumson to a 21-14 lead with 2:49 left in the third quarter.

After Mater Dei sophomore quarterback Alex Brown mishandled the snap out of the shotgun, he scrambled out to his left. Rumson junior Gordon Forsyth batted Brown's pass in the air and it fell into the grasp of Kelly, who raced 49 yards for the touchdown - giving the Bulldogs their 21st unanswered point after falling behind 14-0.

"All the credit to (Forsyth), it wouldn't have happened without him," Kelly said. "It just happened. Something I have heard a lot, 'In life, when you find something new, sometimes you just have to pick it up and run with it. You saw where that got us."

Kelly finished with 1 1/2 sacks and an additional tackle for loss in his standout performance.

While Rumson's defense was the consistent force in Rumson's win, the Bulldogs got a lift from their running game and special teams to help jumpstart the comeback.

After Mater Dei jumped out to a 14-0 lead, Bulldogs junior John Volker propelled his team back into the game with a 68-yard touchdown run through the middle of the Seraphs defense. Volker ran for 99 yards on his first three touches and finished with 109 on 10 carries.

Even after Volker gashed its defense to cut the lead in half, Mater Dei came back with a drive that took the ball deep into Rumson territory. It was then the Bulldogs defense came up with its first big play, forcing a fumble by Ingram and recovering on its own 25 yard line to deny a potential Seraphs scoring chance.

Rumson went into the half trailing, 14-7, but wasted no time in tying the game. Junior Patrick Jamin opened the half with a 54-yard kick-off return to set the Bulldogs up at Mater Dei's 32 yard line and on the first play from scrimmage, sophomore Geoff Schroeder broke off a 32-yard run to the endzone to pull the home team even.

"At the end of the half, we stopped them on defense," Schulte said, pointing to the game's turning point. "Coming out in the second half with the kickoff return and Geoff going 30 yards for the touchdown was a big deal."

Mater Dei stormed out to a 14-0 lead thanks to a handful of big plays by senior receiver and Notre Dame commit Clarence Lewis. Brown hit Lewis for a 25-yard touchdown connection to open the scoring with 7:40 left in the first quarter and Lewis ended Rumson's first threat by picking off senior quarterback Collin Coles in the endzone.

On the Seraphs' second drive, Lewis opened the second quarter with a 12-yard sweep to advance to the ball to the Rumson two yard-line and senior running back Malik Ingram finished the drive with a 2-yard run to the left side.

Brown started the game red-hot, completing his first eight passes for 95 yards. He also completed his next two before finally throwing an incomplete pass, although the last two accounted for only four yards.

After Brown's fast start, Rumson shut down the Rumson passing game the rest of the way, save for a 41-yard catch by Lewis on a jump-ball over the middle that did not lead to any offensive points for the Seraphs.

"We got pressure," Schulte said. "(Kelly) had a great game and we started to get to the quarterback."

Lewis's catch did set the stage for his team's final score after Mater Dei downed a punt at the Rumson one yard-line. The Bulldogs failed to get past the three and rather than risk a blocked punt, Schulte opted to take the safety to make the score 21-16 with more than eight minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter.

"Backed up in the endzone, they have athletes on top of athletes and you know they are coming after the punt," Schulte said. "I thought the best thing to do was to give our defense a chance to stop them again."

The bet on his defense paid off. Mater Dei turned the ball over on downs at the Rumson 35 and after getting the ball back with under two minutes to play and one timeout, the Seraphs failed to convert a 4th-and-1 from the Bulldogs 22 with six seconds left to effectively end the game.

After losing 22-21 to Toms River North on a two-point conversion in double-overtime, Rumson has bounced back with an overtime win at Manalapan and Friday's win over Mater Dei. The Bulldogs now have wins over Red Bank Catholic, Long Branch, Manalapan and Mater Dei in the same season, which makes losses to Wall and Toms River North - which have combined for one loss this season - sting a little less.

"At the beginning of the season, we knew we were young and it was just a matter of time," Schulte said. "Each week, we have gotten better and better and more confident in ourselves. This is the result."

"Every year we get a new schedule, people say 'I don't know how you guys are going to win a game,'" Kelly said. "Guess what? When just beat two of the toughest teams in the Shore? So where are those guys at now?"


Box Score

Rumson-Fair Haven 21, Mater Dei Prep 16

Mater DeiRumson-FH
First Downs2310
Passing Yards20454


Mater Dei (4-2)770216
Rumson-FH (4-2)0714021


Scoring Summary

MD - Clarence Lewis 25-yard pass from Alex Brown (Richie Pekmezian kick)

MD - Malik Ingram 2-yard run (Richie Pekmezian kick)

RFH - John Volker 68-yard run (Mike Piperno kick)

RFH - Geoff Schroeder 32-yard run (Mike Piperno kick)

RFH - Jack Kelly 49-yard interception return (Mike Piperno kick)

MDP - Safety


Individual Stats

Rushing - MD: Malik Ingram 18-92, Clarence Lewis 5-28, Isaiah Noguera 4-28, Kyree Drake 2-21, Alex Brown 14-11; RFH: John Volker 10-109, Geoff Schroeder 2-31, Collin Coles 8-23, Peter Crowley 4-5, Patrick Jamin 1-(-1)

Passing - MD: Alex Brown 19-33-1 204; RFH: Collin Coles 7-17-1 54

Receiving - MD: Clarence Lewis 5-80, Kyree Drake 5-49, Isaiah Noguera 4-48, Malik Ingram 3-19, Naran Buntin 2-8; RFH: John Volker 2-21, Patrick Jamin 3-18, Josh Harmon 1-8, Luke Devlin 1-7

Interceptions-Return Yards: MD: Clarence Lewis 1-0; RFH: Jack Kelly 1-49


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