Gridiron Classic – Rumson-Fair Haven Duo Eager for One More Game After Record Careers
Many of the players participating in Thursday’s U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic have their share of memorable stories from winning big games and championships throughout their careers, but the Rumson-Fair Haven duo of Max Pfrang and James Oncea having bragging rights on everybody.
Pfrang and Oncea were part of a Bulldogs group that won three consecutive NJSIAA sectional titles during their time at Rumson, claiming back-to-back Central Jersey Group II titles in 2013 and 2014 and winning the Central Jersey Group III championship this past season. They are one of just five Shore Conference programs to claim three straight state championships since the NJSIAA enacted the high school football playoff system in 1974.
The final stop for Pfrang and Oncea will be to represent Monmouth County when it tries to end a two-game losing steak to Ocean County in the Gridiron Classic, 7 p.m. on Thursday at Central Regional’s Joseph J. Boyd Memorial Field.
“Looking back on it, it was a great three years and it couldn’t have gone any better,” Oncea said. “I love my coach, love my teammates and this is a great game to be in.”
“It was pretty memorable,” Pfrang said. “We were the most winning class at RFH - 30 wins - so it was great. My sophomore year was considered to be one of the best teams and my senior year was also considered one of the best teams. All three years were amazing.”
Pfrang, a linebacker who is headed to Wagner College, was a three-year starter who was 9-0 in the playoffs. He made 87 tackles with two sacks and two fumble recoveries and made all the on-field calls for a defense that was third in the Shore in points allowed per game (7.8) and recorded five shutouts. He finished his career with 235 tackles.
“Max was a vocal leader from the moment he stepped on the field as a sophomore,” said former head coach Bryan Batchler. “A fearless, hard-hitting line backer that never shied away from contact or a challenge. He was a smart player that was extremely unselfish always placing team needs and goals above his own. Max will make RFH proud as he continues his career at Wagner”
Oncea was standout lineman who helped Rumson average 235 rushing yards per game and average 26.8 points per game. Rumson had a 1,000-yard rusher in quarterback Mike O’Connor and also had Bryan Hess and Matt Veccharelli run for over 750 yards each. He will continue his career at Johns Hopkins University.
“James Oncea was one of the most athletic offensive lineman that has gone through RFH over the last decade,” Batchler said. “James was brilliant in the classroom and his football IQ was equally impressive. James did an outstanding job at left tackle over the past two seasons. A strong lineman with excellent footwork and technique, James is a steal for Johns Hopkins.”
Both were third-team All-Shore selections by Shore Sports Network.
Rumson’s incredible run started with an 11-1 season in 2013 that culminated with the program’s second sectional title. In 2014 they went 9-3 and won the program’s second title in a row and last year made it three in a row by beating rival Red Bank, 21-0, at Rutgers University in a championship edition of The Battle of Ridge Road.
Rumson’s defensive performances in title games have become legendary. In five state finals appearances since 2010, the Bulldogs defense under the direction of then-defensive coordinator and current head coach Jerry Schulte has allowed just 16 points, including shutouts over Delaware Valley and Red Bank the last two seasons.
“The way we did it was awesome,” Pfrang said.
Rumson will go down in history as one of just five Shore Conference programs to win three straight NJSIAA titles, joining Manasquan (a record five straight from 1988-2002), Middletown South (2003-2006), Brick (1981-1983) and Asbury Park (2007-2009).
“I think it’s really cool to look back on and realize it’s something I’ll always have in my life,” Oncea said. “Even people 30 years from now will still remember that. It’s something to be proud of, how we came together as a team and kept grinding through any adversity. We had three great seasons and I hope there’s more to come. They still have great players, so I hope they keep it going.”
Some other Rumson seniors were give the opportunity to play in the Gridiron Classic, but declined since they wanted their final game to be the state championship victory at Rutgers.
“I can respect that and I felt that way a little bit too, but I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to play in this game,” Oncea said. “I thought it was such an honor and such a great opportunity. You only get that chance once in your life to get one last football game with the all-stars.”
“I love playing football so any chance to play is great for me,” Pfrang said. “It’s the culmination of all the hard work I put in to be as good a player as I could be. It’s a great show of talent and it means a lot to play in this game.”