MANASQUAN – Much of the attention paid to Saturday’s showdown between Shore Conference powerhouses Manasquan and Rumson-Fair Haven centered around Canyon Birch’s pursuit of the state points record, but the Warriors – Birch included – were focused on something else.


The last time Manasquan and Rumson squared off was the 2017 NJSIAA South Jersey Group 2 sectional final, which ended in a 5-4 comeback win for the Bulldogs. Manasquan led by two in that game only to see Rumson rally for the win. A shot for the would-be tying goal in the final seconds clanged off the post and out, ending their reigns as sectional champions. Through all the significant accomplishments over the past years, that moment has stuck with Manasquan’s seniors.

“We definitely knew we had to kame up for when we lost two years ago,” said Manasquan senior goalie Mike LaPoint. “We wanted to come in and have a big game.”

The Warriors, ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, did just that with a dominant 13-2 Shore Conference Class B North victory over No. 5 Rumson. Birch scored five goals and added two assists to break the New Jersey career points record while LaPoint and defensemen Jack Fabean, Mike Page, Mike Farrell and Tommy Shaughnessy spearheaded a superb defensive effort that limited a dynamic Rumson offense to just a pair of goals.

“This was one we circled a long time ago,” Birch said. “After sophomore year, all we wanted to do was play this team again. We handled our business and it was a great team win.”

Birch gave Manasquan an early lead and tied the New Jersey scoring record with his 468th career point. After a goal by Matt Franzoni, Birch scored again to establish a new state points record, surpassing the previous mark held by A.L. Johnson legend Matt Poskay. He finished the day with 474 points and counting.

“It’s definitely an awesome feeling but it really hasn’t kicked in yet,” Birch said. “This was a big team win, and anytime you beat a team 13-2 it’s phenomenal. Having a defense hold a team to two goals, a top opponent like that, we’ll take that every day.”

“It was huge for us,” Fabrean said.  “To get back in the win column against them is huge.”

Knowing that Rumson (8-7, 5-2) would not go away easily, Manasquan kept its foot on the gas pedal even after jumping out to an early lead. Following Birch’s record-breaking goal, Fabean made a pole run and scored to put the Warriors (10-0, 6-0) up 4-0 after the first quarter. Senior midfielder James Pendergist pushed the lead to 5-0 early in the second quarter, then scored again off a pass from senior attackman Ryan Anderson to extend the advantage to 6-0. Rumson finally got on the board when Drew Shaw converted a pass from Patrick Jamin for an extra-man opportunity goal.

“That game two years ago still nags at me,” said Manasquan head coach Sean Cunningham. “It hurts and it’s going to forever. We were up 3-1 in that game and lost 5-4, so even though we were up in this game we know they’re a team that has the ability to go on runs. They’re very talented and well-coached and they’ve tested themselves against the Seton Hall Preps and Moorestowns this year. They were well-prepared for us and they have the ability to score in droves.”

“Thankfully, Mike LaPoint had a great game and the defense, as always, demands the best of an opposing offense. That intensity was key. We had to come out with that desire.”

Focus and intensity was not a problem for Manasquan. Whether it was on the defensive end, in transition, on ground balls or while riding, the Warriors were relentless.

Just over a minute into the third quarter, Birch completed his hat trick for a 7-1 Manasquan lead. James Pendergist then set up sophomore attackman Casey Mulligan for a goal at 5:58 that made it 8-1. Birch’s goal with 55 seconds left in the quarter pushed the lead to 9-1 and Page scored off the ensuing face-off for a 10-1 advantage heading to the fourth quarter.

Rumson cut Manasquan’s lead to 10-2 early in the fourth when Jamin set up sophomore midfielder Kiel Forlenza for a goal. Manasquan responded with the final three goals of the game, however. Birch assisted on goals by Mulligan and freshman midfielder Robert Pendergist before putting the exclamation point on his record-breaking day and Manasquan’s major victory with his fifth goal.

There is still a long way to go for Manasquan in its journey toward winning a third straight Shore Conference Tournament title, repeating as South Jersey Group 1 champion and winning the program’s first group title, but what the Warriors have done so far has been quite impressive. They’ve defeated chief rivals Christian Brothers Academy and Rumson-Fair Haven by scores of 15-4 and 13-2 this season and scored an 11-7 win over an unranked but always-tough Bridgewater-Raritan squad. They have beaten every Shore Conference opponent by at least 11 goals.

“To get a win like that in this situation for us; I know it’s not a Shore Conference or a state sectional final, but it’s still Manasquan vs. Rumson, and that means a lot,” Cunningham said. “It’s another step on the road for where we want to get and what we want to accomplish, and to add an individual accomplishment on top of that, it’s a great day for the program.”

Box Score

Manasquan 13, Rumson-Fair Haven 2

Rumson (8-7, 5-2)01012
Manasquan (10-0, 6-0)424313 

Drew Shaw, Kiel Forlenza; M: Canyon Birch 5, James Pendergist 2, Casey Mulligan 2, Jack Fabean, Mike Page, Matt Franzoni, Robert Pendergist.

ASSISTS – RFH: Patrick Jamin 2; M: Canyon Birch 2, Ryan Anderson, James Pendergist.

SAVES – RFH: Ryan Croddick 13; M: Mike LaPoint 10.

SHOTS: Manasquan, 34-18.


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