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CLARK - The Rumson-Fair Haven boys lacrosse team did not win 20 straight games to start the 2021 season, make the trip to Arthur L. Johnson High School Wednesday night and wait through a mid-game lightning delay only to no-show in the NJSIAA Group II Championship game.

That was the harsh reality the Bulldogs faced at halftime against a fellow unbeaten team in Summit Wednesday night, but to no one wearing purple's surprise, the Bulldogs did not go down without a fight.

Seniors Luke Devlin and Patrick Jamin led a third-quarter comeback that saw Rumson cut a five-goal deficit to one, but Summit showed the poise of a powerhouse by denying Rumson, 9-6, and adding to its impressive collection of Group titles.

"I'm not sad about the result - they (Summit) are a hell of a team," Devlin said. "I'm sad it's over, sad we couldn't bring a title back to RFH. It bums me out, but we had a hell of a year. I couldn't be more proud of this group."

Devlin scored the first of his three goals in the game to open the scoring and fire up the Rumson sideline and crowd that had to wait extra long to start Wednesday's battle of unbeaten teams because of a lightning delay in the first game of Wednesday's double-header at Johnson as well.

After Devlin's ice-breaker, however, Summit asserted itself with five unanswered goals, three of which came before the first quarter ended, with senior Michael Bomomo scoring two of them. Then, less than four minutes into the second quarter, lightning in the area forced the officials to stop the game and send the teams to their respective locker-rooms for what wound up a 45-minute weather delay.

"There was still plenty of time to make up ground," Devlin said. "Something coach (Marc Moreau) always says is 'inside-out': focus on us and don't worry about anything else. We didn't worry about the scoreboard, we just tried to keep playing how we wanted to, for the love of the game. I knew it might be my last time so I just tried to give 100 perfect and leave no doubts or regrets."

Right after the restart, Rumson's slide continued with a goal by senior Luke DiNola with 2:49 left in the half to make the score 6-1.

"Summit is always tough with the way they grind you down with their long possession and how disciplined they are on both ends," Moreau said. "You almost have to play a perfect game and we were definitely not perfect for those first 14 minutes. We got the goal to take the lead and that go us fired up but we let them build some momentum and unfortunately, they capitalized on it."

Rumson nearly got one back before halftime, but sophomore Cole Cashion's score was waved off with time already having expired in the second quarter.

If the weather delay did not give Rumson a chance to regroup, halftime did. The Bulldogs stormed back in the third quarter and it started after a penalty left Rumson down a man.

After jarring the ball loose in its own end, Rumson broke out on a counter-attack and Devlin dropped off a pass to junior Christian Bockelmann for the short-handed finish, cutting the deficit to 6-2.

"Any time you score a man down, it's a big lift," Moreau said. "It was especially big for us because of how bad we needed to score there and I think that definitely got us going. They were really controlling the pace and we needed to speed them up a little bit and I think that's how we ended up getting back in it."

That turned out to be the first of four unanswered Rumson goals in a span of 7:55 of clock time. Jamin then caught fire, going strong through Summit's defense for Rumson's third goal at the 7:56 mark, followed by a long-distance strike exactly one minute later to pull the Bulldogs within 6-4.

Devlin then pulled Rumson to the brink of tying the game, taking a feed from junior Thomas French and firing a low shot that found its mark to cut the Summit lead down to 6-5 with 3:05 left in the third.

Junior Dylan Sebastian halted the run for Summit by setting up behind the goal and beating his man for the finish with 2:01 left in the third - the final goal of the quarter for either team.

DiNola scored his second goal 1:21 into the fourth to stretch Summit's lead to 8-5 and junior John Murray scored from a tough angle on the left side for a deflating goal that put Rumson back down by four scores with 5:53 left.

Devlin kept Rumson kicking with his third and final goal of the game, which he scored with 4:59 left off a pass from sophomore and younger brother, Bryce Devlin.

Summit's defense and goaltender Will O'Connell kept it there and finished the game strong to secure Summit its 10th overall group championship since 2005.

"Our offense was really hard to stop, but we had a little bit of difficulty facing the zone pretty much all year," Devlin said. "They are a hell of a team, they play as a unit, not just as individual defenders. It's very hard to beat a team with a unit like that, a steady goalkeeper and three Division-I attackmen."

Rumson's pursuit of a second ever group championship came up short in a season in which its senior group had to go from sophomores in 2019 to leaders of a 20-win team after missing the entire 2020 campaign that was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We thought we could have been better last year than we were this year because of the leadership of the seniors last year," Devlin said. "I just knew that they didn't get to play their senior year, so this senior year meant the world to me. Every time I stepped out on that field, I gave it a hundred percent and I think that goes for everybody on this team."

The silver-lining to Wednesday's loss is how many impact players Rumson had on the field that are due back in 2022, when the Bulldogs will try to make it at least one step further.

"Most of the guys on the field for us today were juniors or sophomores, so I think it's encouraging knowing so many of the guys who played today will be back," Moreau said. "After losing last year, you see the importance of guys getting experience and I think it's not only great that they got to play on a team this good and against competition that good, but they also get to experience this bad taste to end the season. That's a big motivator that will make them want to work hard this offseason so they can come back and win next year."


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