Football – No. 6 Rumson-Fair Haven Runs Wild on Raritan
RUMSON — It’s been 279 days since Rumson-Fair Haven walked off the field at Rutgers University’s High Point Solutions Stadium with its third straight NJSIAA state championship, and after Friday night’s dismantling of Raritan it’s clear the Bulldogs haven’t missed a beat.
Rumson’s offensive line paved the way for an unrelenting rushing attack as senior running back Matt Vecchiarelli ran for 154 yard and three touchdowns on 11 carries and senior quarterback Mike O’Connor scampered for 114 yards and two scores on five carries to lead the Bulldogs, ranked No. 6 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, to a 41-0 Shore Conference Class A Central victory over the Rockets at Borden Stadium.
In a matchup of returning state sectional champions it was Rumson that dominated from start to finish. Rumson (1-0, 1-0) ran for 317 yards and averaged 13.8 yards per carry while its stout defense blanked Raritan (0-1, 0-1) and held the Rockets to 153 yards of total offense.
“Our line did amazing, especially our fullback, (sophomore) Alex Maldjian,” Vecchiarelli said. “I just followed him through and once it opened up I used my speed.”
“Our line did a great job today,” O’Connor said. “The holes were crazy big and the backs did a great job getting there.”
Vecchiarelli scored on touchdown runs of 47, 59 and 16 yards while O’Connor had an 11-yard touchdown run and a 25-yard score. Junior running back Peter Lucas ripped off a 54-yard run in the second half.
Rumson’s defense was in the backfield all game with senior defensive tackle Liam Adams and junior Chase Pfrang recording two sacks each, and senior linebacker Ruane notching a sack and a tackle for a loss. Senior cornerback Jake Giannotto had an interception and junior Stephen Edler blocked a punt that was recovered by senior Chris Lucas and led to a touchdown.
“We have an amazing defense with Mike Ruane, our middle linebacker…everyone, our secondary, our D-line played great,” Vecchiarelli said. “Even our special teams were great.”
The Bulldogs put it together in a big way to give Jerry Schulte his first win as Rumson head coach. Schulte had been Rumson’s defensive coordinator for 11 years before taking over this season for Bryan Batchler. Schulte has previously been the head coach at Mater Dei and Wall, but hasn’t been the head man since 1999.
“I haven’t done this in 17 years so it’s a nice way to start again,” Schulte said. “It’s been a lot of fun coming back.”
Rumson wasted no time asserting itself by forcing Raritan three-and-out and taking over at midfield. On third-and-seven, Vecchiarelli burst through a hole and raced 47 yards to the end zone for a 7-0 lead. Rumson would go on to score on four of its next five possessions in the first half to take a 35-0 lead into halftime that initiated a running clock to begin the third quarter.
“We stuck to the game plan and it worked out well for us,” O’Connor said.
Rumson’s second scoring drive covered 44 yards in eight plays and culminated in O’Connor jolting through the middle of the line for an 11-yard touchdown run. Maldjian made a great catch on a tipped pass that resulted in a 10-yard gain on third-and-8, keeping the drive alive and putting the Bulldogs at the Raritan 9-yard line.
A face mask penalty and a 14-yard gain on a screen pass from Marc Carnivale to Vito Aleo had Raritan on the move late in the first quarter, but a batted ball at the line of scrimmage by senior James Rue and a sack by Adams on third down forced another punt by the Rockets. On the ensuing possession, a seven-yard pass from O’Connor to junior receiver Tyler Pierson moved the chains, and on the next play Vecchiarelli broke free for a 59-yard touchdown run to put Rumson up 21-0 early in the second quarter.
A sack by Pfrang on the next series put Raritan in an early hole and the Rockets again had to punt. Carnivale’s punt pinned the Bulldogs deep at their own 3-yard line, but O’Connor got them out in a hurry with a brilliant run all the way to the Raritan 1-yard line. There was a block in the back call on the play, however, so the ball was spotted back at the Rockets’ 39-yard line. Raritan would hold and force a punt.
It was a small victory for the Rockets and a short-lived one at that, because four plays into the next drive Giannotto stepped in front of a Carnivale pass to the outside and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. Another penalty, this one for a targeting call on a what looked to be a clean block on a hustle play by Pfrang, nuked the score and put the ball at the 24-yard line. A holding penalty then brought it back to the 34-yard line, but O’Connor needed just two carries to find the end zone and put Rumson up 28-0.
Raritan went three-and-out again, and this time Edler blocked the punt and Chris Lucas recovered at the 16-yard line. Vecchiarelli scored on the first play and Rumson took a five touchdown lead into the break.
With the clock running for the entirety of the second half, there were just six possessions total the rest of the way. Rumson’s first team defense kept Raritan in check through the third quarter when they were pulled for the second team. That unit did the job, as well, when Lucas scored on a 54-yard run down the right sideline with 5:01 left in the game and the defense preserved the shutout with a late stand after Raritan moved to the 8-yard line.
“This is exactly what we expected,” Vecchiarelli said. “We set the tone tonight and hopefully it will be the same throughout the season.”
For a team that has its sights set on becoming just the third Shore Conference program to win four straight NJSIAA titles, Friday night’s season-opener couldn’t have gone much better.
“We expect nothing less, though,” Ruane said. “We come in and work hard, and our goal is to play in December. That’s still our motto.”
No. 6 Rumson-Fair Haven 41, Raritan 0
Raritan (0-1, 0-1) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Rumson (1-0, 1-0) 14 21 0 6 — 41
Matt Vecchiarelli 47-yard run (Thomas Chapin kick)
Mike O’Connor 11-yard run (Thomas Chapin kick)
Matt Vecchiarelli 59-yard run (Thomas Chapin kick)
Mike O’Conor 25-yard run (Thomas Chapin kick)
Matt Vecchiarelli 16-yard run (Thomas Chapin kick)
Peter Lucas 54-yard run (kick failed)
Rushing — R: Phil Buccine 7-49, Vito Aleo 9-15, Marc Carnivale 10-13, Jarrett Valdez 2-4; RFH: Matt Vecchiarelli 11-154, Mike O’Connor 5-114, Peter Lucas 7-53, Thomas Forlenza 1-10, Team 1-(-14).
Passing — R: Marc Carnivale 6-14-1 72; RFH: Mike O’Connor 3-6-0 31; Jack Volker 2-4-0 14.
Receiving — R: Sean Agar 1-30, Rory Sullivan 2-22, Vito Aleo 1-14, Vinnie DiCarlo 1-4; Daniel Vanmeerbeke 1-2; RFH: Tyler Pierson 3-21, Trevor Caruso 1-14, Alex Maldjian 1-10.
INT — RFH: Jake Giannotto 1-20.
Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.