RUMSON - Friday night's NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III opener was not an exemplary performance by the Rumson-Fair Haven football team but the Bulldogs accomplished the two things head coach Jerry Schulte wanted them to against Ocean to start the postseason: get their confidence back and advance.

Rumson's defense and covered up some mistakes on both sides of the ball, as well as the absence of leading rusher Alex Maldjian, to deliver a 28-7 win for the second-seeded Bulldogs over the No. 7 Spartans.

"We lost to two very good teams and I thought we played pretty well in both games," Schulte said of Rumson's consecutive losses to Red Bank Catholic and Middletown South in each of the past two Friday nights. "We just wanted to get our confidence back and I think by getting a win and advancing to the next round, we were able to do that."

Filling in for the senior Maldjian - who was nursing a toe injury sustained in last week's loss to Middletown South, according to Schulte - sophomore tailback John Volker rushed for three first-half touchdowns and finished with 118 yards on 18 carries.

Rumson sophomore John Volker rushed for 118 yards and three touchdowns Friday night. (Photo by Robert Samuels)
Rumson sophomore John Volker rushed for 118 yards and three touchdowns Friday night. (Photo by Robert Samuels)

Volker's touchdown runs of 11, eight and 37 yards all capped drives that started in Ocean territory thanks to stands by the defense. Sophomore Ryan Ruane blocked a punt on Ocean's first possession to set the Bulldogs offense up at the Spartans 12 and Volker plowed into the endzone from 11 yards out.

On the next possession, the Rumson defense recovered a fumble at the Ocean 31 to once again set up the offense. Volker again capped the drive with a touchdown run, this time from eight yards out.

An Ocean false start and a tackle in the backfield by Kenny Rainey for a nine-yard loss backed the Spartans up to their own five yard-line and the punt that followed only made it out to the Ocean 35 yard-line. Following a penalty and a negative-two-yard run, Volker broke loose up the right side for a 37-yard touchdown run to stretch the Rumson lead to 21-0.

"We didn't miss (Maldjian) too much today," Schulte said. "He was available if we really needed him but we felt like with the guys we had running behind our line, we would be able to give him a rest. He was banged up."

Volker's third touchdown run of the first half was the last Rumson highlight for nearly two whole quarters as the Bulldogs offense managed only three first downs the rest of the way, including just one the entire second half. They did, however, make the most of the that first down, which was a 97-yard touchdown reception by senior Ian O'Connor from junior quarterback Collin Coles on a wide-receiver screen on 3rd-and-20.

Ocean's lone touchdown came on a 95-yard touchdown return right up the middle by junior Tebor Pena right after Volker's third touchdown, pulling the Spartans within 21-7. Pena led Ocean Friday with 85 rushing yards on 26 carries.

"They (Ocean) put some pressure on the front of our defense, but at the end of the day, we got the job done," junior linebacker Christian Lanzalotto said. "They had some long drives but they weren't able to put points on the board outside of special teams."

During the second half, Rumson's defense bent on several occasions, but never broke despite spending most of the half on the field. The Bulldogs offense ran only six plays from scrimmage in the second half while Ocean ran 33 on only two possessions. Despite dominating possession, Ocean did not find the endzone and its longest gain of the half was a 15-yard pass interference penalty.

Ocean's defense, meanwhile, limited Volker to three yards on four carries in the second half, but got caught off guard by Coles and O'Connor on the screen pass on 3rd-and-20. Prior to that completion, Coles had missed on his previous four attempts and seven out of his last eight - in large part due to five dropped passes.

Rumson senior Ian O'Connor put Friday's game away with a 97-yard touchdown reception. (Photo by Robert Samuels)
Rumson senior Ian O'Connor put Friday's game away with a 97-yard touchdown reception. (Photo by Robert Samuels)

"A sigh of relief is a good way to put it," Schulte said of the O'Connor touchdown. "Our defense was on the field for the whole half so at least we got them some more points."

Some other Rumson miscues on Friday night included 10 penalties for 95 yards, surrendering five 4th-down conversions by Ocean on six attempts and two lost fumbles - one by Volker and another on a botched snap on a punt.

"We know there are some things we need to work on," Lanzalotto said. "We could have gotten off the field a lot quicker on some of those drives and we committed too many penalties but those are things we are going to focus on as we prepare for the next game."

Despite those miscues as well as the absence of Maldjian, the Bulldogs advanced by a three-score margin and will turn their attention to Ridge-Road rival Red Bank. The No. 3 Bucs defeated Allentown, 30-13, a miles west on Ridge Road Friday night and will make the short trip to Rumson next Friday night in the Central Jersey Group III semifinals.

This will mark the first postseason meeting between the rivals since Rumson defeated Red Bank, 21-0, in the Central Group III championship game in 2015, ending Red Bank's bid for an undefeated season.

"We have been playing them for years, so it's nothing new for us to play Red Bank," Schulte said. "They are a very good team, they are having a great year and we'll see what happens on Friday night."


Box Score

Rumson-Fair Haven 28, Ocean 7

First Downs109
Passing Yards0127


Ocean (4-6)07007
Rumson-FH (7-2)1470728


Scoring Summary

R - John Volker 11-yard run (Collin Coles kick)

R - John Volker 8-yard run (Collin Coles kick)

R - John Volker 37-yard run (Collin Coles kick)

O - Trebor Pena 95-yard kickoff return (Quinn Doherty kick)

R - Ian O'Connor 97-yard pass from Collin Coles (Coles kick)


Individual Stats

Rushing - O: Trebor Pena 26-85, Nasir Thompson 6-26, Alex Orsino-Bryant 14-13, Ryan Moran 3-8; R: John Volker 18-118, Collin Coles 1-30, Peter Crowley 4-5

Passing - O: Alex Orsino-Bryant 0-6-0 0; R: Collin Coles 4-11-0 127

Receiving - R: Ian O'Connor 3-117, Peter Crowley 1-10


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