Proving Their Point: No. 2 Red Bank Catholic Tops No. 1 Rumson-Fair Haven in Heavyweight Showdown
RUMSON – Throughout the week leading up to Friday night’s game, Red Bank Catholic had to hear and read about how Rumson-Fair Haven boasted the Shore Conference’s best defense, how the Caseys had not played a challenging enough schedule, and why that would be the difference when the teams squared off. And even though RBC has genuine respect for its Two Rivers rival four miles to the northeast, frankly, the Caseys were tired of that narrative.
Red Bank Catholic set out to prove a point, and on Friday night at Borden Stadium the Caseys did precisely that.
Junior running back Sabino Portella ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns and the defense yielded just 147 yards of offense as Red Bank Catholic, ranked No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, delivered a 21-14 victory over No. 1 Rumson in a titanic matchup of undefeated teams.
Portella's 2-yard touchdown run in the third quarter stood up as the game-winning score thanks to a Caseys defense that came up with clutch plays down the stretch, including sacks by Aidan Donohue and Ryan McPherson on Rumson's final two possessions. Sophomore running back Torin Harmon ran for a 48-yard touchdown and senior running back Rajahn Cooper caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Alex Brown.
Senior tight end/defensive end Alex Bauman had a tremendous game for RBC with three catches for 30 yards, a sack, and two tackles for loss. Junior wide receiver Najiah Rahman caught two passes for 54 yards, including a 46-yard catch that set up Portella's touchdown.
It was a complete team victory for RBC, which will ascend to the No. 1 spot in the Shore when the new rankings are released on Tuesday.
“We heard a lot all week about how they’re the gold standard for defense; we were hearing it all week,” Bauman said. “I think RBC has taken that over.”
“It was written that their defense is the golden defense in the Shore,” Portella said. “We had something to prove. I think a lot of people forgot about how tough RBC’s defense is.”
“That was our marching call to our kids all week,” said Red Bank Catholic head coach Mike Lange. “It was everything about their defense and them being physical, and the last time I checked we’re pretty physical and play good defense here.”
“I’m proud of them, it’s a great program win and it was a collective team effort. It was similar to 2018 (a 14-13 RBC win) in that you had to empty the tank in all facets of the game. In these games, you have to keep your composure and we had to overcome some things at the end.”
Rumson senior quarterback Colin Kennedy had a 1-yard touchdown run late in the first half that cut RBC's lead to 14-7 at halftime. Early in the fourth quarter, he tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Aidan Casuccio to pull the Bulldogs to within a touchdown at 21-14.
RFH senior linebacker John Lista had another outstanding game with a sack and a forced fumble and senior defensive end Aiden Moriarty also played an excellent game with two sacks and a forced fumble.
The adversity Lange spoke of began after the Caseys took a 21-7 lead on Portella’s 2-yard touchdown run with 51 seconds left in the third quarter. Rumson answered with a five-play, 78-yard scoring drive as Kennedy connected with Scott Venancio for 38 yards and Casuccio for 20 yards to quickly move the ball to the RBC 20-yard line. Two plays later Kennedy went to Casuccio again for a 19-yard touchdown that made it a one-score game.
Rumson’s defense then forced a three and out to get the ball back, but Jake Jacobson boomed a punt that was downed at Rumson’s 10-yard line. The Caseys' defense allowed one first down but then stopped Rumson to force a punt. However, on the next play, the Caseys fumbled and Rumson recovered at the RBC 49-yard line. RBC stopped two straight Rumson runs for no gain before Donohue got to Kennedy on third down for a sack and a 7-yard loss.
Red Bank Catholic had a chance to chew time off the clock with 5:40 left in the game, but after gaining a first down at the Rumson 47 the Caseys fumbled again when Lista punched the ball loose and Ryan Kalman pounced on it at the 40-yard line. The time was now for the Bulldogs with just 4:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, but the RBC defense stood tall once more. After an incompletion on first down and a penalty on second down, McPherson burst in to sack Kennedy for a six-yard loss to bring up third and 21. After another incompletion, Rumson was forced to punt from its own 29-yard line.
The Caseys now had a chance to close out the game with one first down, and on third and two from the 48-yard line, Portella surged ahead for a 2-yard gain that moved the chains and allowed RBC to take a knee and run out the clock.
“We gave them a couple (chances) on the offensive end and we knew our defense had to come out strong and come up with a stop, and that’s what we did,” Bauman said.
“All our guys kept their composure,” Portella said. “There was some adversity against us and we overcame it.”
In the first half, Red Bank Catholic was stymied from the 3-yard line on fourth and goal as Rumson’s defense held firm after the Caseys had 17 consecutive offensive plays thanks to an offsides call on a punt. But after a Rumson punt on the next series, RBC struck first when Harmon ripped off a 48-yard touchdown run with 8:39 left in the second quarter.
Following a three-and-out by Rumson, the Caseys then marched 85 yards in nine plays and took a 14-0 lead on Brown’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Cooper. Portella had a 32-yard run that moved the ball to the 10-yard line and set up the score.
Rumson scored a must-have touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half when Kennedy scored on a 1-yard run with four seconds on the clock. He actually fumbled the snap but was able to quickly grab it and scoot into the end zone untouched off the right side. It was an 11-play, 62-yard drive that featured a fourth-down conversion and a 12-yard screen pass to Geoff Schroeder on third and five from the 26, and was also aided by a 15-yard face mask penalty against RBC.
While the RBC defense held Rumson under 150 yards of offense, including just 25 yards rushing, its offense was making a statement of its own on the ground. The Caseys’ offensive line paved the way for a 231-yard rushing performance with Portella’s 144 yards plus 76 from Harmon leading the way. Portella, Cooper and Harmon give RBC the best backfield in the Shore Conference, and that isn’t even counting Brown at quarterback. The trio had plenty of running room behind a standout group of linemen headlined by 6-foot-6, 300-pound tackle and Purdue commit Vince Carpenter.
“Our whole thing was, we felt they have tremendous team speed, so how do you neutralize that? You run right at them,” Lange said. “You see 44 (Lista) and 50 (Ryan McKay) are great players and they can run sideline to sideline. Our thing was to keep it right at them.”
“The (offensive line) played a great game," Portella said. "Right after the game I went up to all of them and gave them a big hug. They fight their butts off every game. Maybe I’ll have to take them out to dinner this week.”
The game had its dramatic moments befitting of a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup and also had the crowd to match. Rumson Athletic Director Chris Lanzalotto estimated a crowd of around 4,000 people, including a massive RFH student section close to 700 in numbers. Both stands were completely filled and the fence surrounding the field was lined multiple people deep. If you didn’t arrive at least 90 minutes early, parking your car became a tour of the local streets. It all made for an unbeatable atmosphere.
“It was absolutely crazy,” Bauman said. “You couldn’t even hear anything on the field, we had to give signals every play. Honestly, I’m speechless at the crowd that came. The stadium was filled with no seats left. It was just an awesome game overall.”
“I’ve never played in an atmosphere like this,” Portella said. “RFH showed, RBC showed. It was a great environment.”
“I think I can speak for both sides – obviously I’m glad we came out on top – that this is what you sign up for whether you’re a player or a coach,” Lange said. “I’m never going to coach in college so this is as close to a college environment as I’ll ever coach in. We actually practiced with (simulated) crowd noise this week just to get used to it. We literally had a speaker behind our offense for two days.”
The chatter heard and words read leading up to the game served as fuel for Red Bank Catholic, but it wasn’t as if those statements were false. Rumson entered the week with the Shore’s No. 1 scoring defense at just 3.8 points per game. Rumson’s schedule had been more difficult than RBC’s with an OSI rating of 72.22 to 67.1 for the Caseys. RBC wasn’t concerned by those statistics but there was still the matter of proving it on the field.
“This is definitely a game where we can say we played one of our better games and we beat a great opponent,” Bauman said. “We have a lot of respect for them, they’re obviously a great team. We knew we had to come out and play our best to beat them.”
“You want to check all the boxes and answer all the questions,” Lange said. “The last couple weeks we had dominating performances against teams that obviously aren’t on this level, and the question was could we compete at this level. We felt pretty good, but you have to put it out there first.”
It’s out there now, that is for sure. The Caseys have made their statement.
Red Bank Catholic vs. Rumson-Fair Haven Football
No. 2 Red Bank Catholic 21, No. 1 Rumson-Fair Haven 14
|Red Bank Catholic||Rumson-Fair Haven|
RBC – Torin Harmon 48-yard run (Jake Jacobson kick)
RBC – Rajahn Cooper 7-yard pass from Alex Brown (Jake Jacobson kick)
RFH – Colin Kennedy 1-yard run (Justin Worobel kick)
RBC – Sabino Portella 2-yard run (Jake Jacobson kick)
RFH – Aidan Casuccio 19-yard pass from Colin Kennedy (Justin Worobel kick)
RUSHING – RBC: Sabino Portella 21-144, Torin Harmon 12-76, Rajahn Cooper 5-16, Alex Brown 7-(-5); RFH: Geoff Schroeder 14-33, Dan Garvey 1-3, Colin Kennedy 11-(-11).
PASSING – RBC: Alex Brown 6-10-0 91; RFH: Colin Kennedy 9-16-0 122.
RECEIVING – RBC: Najih Rahman 2-54, Alex Bauman 3-30, Rajahn Cooper 1-7; RFH: Aidan Casuccio 2-39, Scott Venancio 1-38, Geoff Schroeder 2-21, Dan Garvey 2-19, Nick Rigby 2-5