No. 5 Rumson Shuts Down Lakewood
LAKEWOOD — The first order of business for any team playing Lakewood is to corral dynamic senior Amir Tyler, and Rumson-Fair Haven’s play was simple if not foolproof.
“We had to hit him early and hit him often,” said Rumson senior linebacker Max Pfrang. “He’s their best player and he’s a freak, so we had to wrap up and have sure tackling.”
Tyler scored the Piners’ two touchdowns, but the Bulldogs standout defense did its job once again to lead the way in a 30-14 Shore Conference nondivisional win on Saturday afternoon that handed Lakewood its first loss. Rumson, ranked No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, used a pair of touchdown passes from junior quarterback Mike O’Connor and an interception return for a touchdown by senior Mike Caruso to forge a three-touchdown lead on its way to improving to 5-1.
Junior kicker Thomas Chapin added a 34-yard field goal in the third quarter and junior Bryan Hess scored on a seven-yard run in the fourth quarter. Tyler got Lakewood (5-1) on the scoreboard with a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the third quarter, and later made a brilliant one-handed catch on an 18-yard touchdown reception.
Led by Pfrang, junior linebacker Mike Ruane and junior defensive lineman Liam Adams, Rumson’s smothering defense held Lakewood to 43 yards rushing, including 32 by Tyler, who ran for 281 yards on just seven carries in a Week Six win over Donovan Catholic. Ruane finished with a sack and two tackles for a loss, while Adams had a pair of stops in the backfield. Rumson’s defense has allowed just 33 points this season while recording three shutouts.
“Tyler is a special, special player, and one of the best athletes I’ve seen,” said Rumson head coach Bryan Batchler. “We have a veteran defense and we’re used to seeing great athletes over the years. We have a lot of good players on this defense and we emphasize doing your job.”
Lakewood’s defense was stout against the run, especially in the first half when the Bulldogs had just two yards rushing. That forced Rumson to the air where O’Connor completed all eight of his passes in the first half, including tossing touchdown passes to junior Elijah McAllister and senior John Kingdon. McAllister, just a sophomore in his second year of football but standing 6-foot-6, is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He made a tremendous catch in the corner of the end zone on a 15-yard scoring pass in the first quarter and finished with four catches for 37 yards and a score.
“That catch in the end zone was probably the best catch I’ve seen him make in his two years of football,” Batchler said of McAllister’s touchdown reception. “He’s getting better and more comfortable.”
“it’s great when you have a coaching staff that helps ease you in to the process, and a running game to take the pressure off,” McAllister said.
After forcing Lakewood three-and-out on the game’s first offensive series, Rumson took over at its own 35 where it began a 10-play, 65-yard scoring drive to take a 7-0 lead. It was a bizarre series that featured six penalties for either offsides or false start, including consecutive offsides calls on the first two plays. A 22-yard passing play from O’Connor to Hess jump-started the drive, and a 12-yard run by senior Lachlan Hull on third-and-10 moved the ball to the Lakewood 21-yard line. On second-and-goal from the 15, O’Connor found McAllister in the back-right corner of the end zone for the score.
“On that play I knew we were in the red zone and need to score, so I had to get to the back pylon,” McAllister said. “Mikey threw a great ball over the defender and all I had to do was catch it and keep my feet in. I didn’t have a lot of room to catch it, but I knew I had to make a play to get the boys started off on the right foot.”
Rumson’s lead stretched to 14-0 later in the first quarter when, after Lakewood had moved to the Bulldogs’ 5-yard line, Caruso stepped in front of a pass by sophomore Zyhier Jones and returned it 87 yards for a touchdown.
An eight-play, 59-yard drive at the end of the first half put Rumson up 21-0. A 17-yard pass from O’Connor to Hull moved the ball into Lakewood territory, and O’Connor found McAllister for 12 yards on fourth-and-12 to keep the drive alive. After an offsides call, O’Connor connected with Kingdon on a 14-yard score for a three-score lead at halftime.
The Bulldogs began the third quarter with a 10-play, 60-yard drive to extend their lead to 24-0 on Chapin’s 34-yard field goal. Lakewood denied Rumson a shutout when Tyler snatched O’Connor’s pass out of the air and weaved his way into the end zone on a 25-yard return. His two-point conversion attempt failed as the ball was jarred loose just before he crossed the goal line, leaving Rumson with a 24-6 lead.
The Bulldogs got those points back on the following drive by marching 62 yards over 11 plays, and taking a 30-6 lead on Hess’s seven-yard touchdown run with 7:37 left in the game. A 14-yard catch by Ruane on second-and-17 set up the scoring run by Hess.
Lakewood added another touchdown to cap the scoring by driving 71 yards in 10 plays. Jones had completions of 14 and 21 yards to Adi Palmer and Jaqel Hunter, respectively, and converted a third-and-five with a 14-yard pass to Honore Richardson. The touchdown had no effect on the final outcome, but produced arguably the best individual play of the season when Tyler reached up and behind himself on a leaping one-handed catch to reign in an 18-yard touchdown.