Return of the King: Rumson-Fair Haven Dethrones Manasquan to Claim 7th Shore Conference Championship
RUMSON -- For a program with the championship pedigree of Rumson-Fair Haven, five years is a long time to go in between conference titles. On Saturday morning, the Bulldogs took back their throne.
Senior attackman Luke Devlin and sophomore attackman Cole Cashion each delivered three goals and one assist and senior goalie Ryan Croddick made seven saves to headline a dominant and complete effort from start to finish as top-ranked Rumson stormed past Manasquan, 11-4, to capture the 2021 Shore Conference Tournament championship. Senior midfielder Patrick Jamin added two goals and one assist and senior face-off specialist Tommy Swain won 16 of 19 draws to help lead the way.
Rumson (17-0) scored four goals in a span of 3:31 in the first quarter and never looked back on its way to ending Manasquan's three-year run as SCT champion. The conference title is the seventh in program history for the Bulldogs, which extends their Shore Conference record, and is the first for the program since 2016.
"First off, props to (Manasquan), they've been the best team in the Shore for a while and we really respect them," Devlin said. "Like our coach says, it starts on the inside with us. We didn't pay attention to any press or any of the outside stuff. We just focused on ourselves and when we do that we control our own destiny. We all fought as one, the coaching staff had us ready and it was just a complete team effort."
"The last two times we played Manasquan we lost so to get the No. 1 seed this year and play at home, I think that meant a lot to everyone on the team," Croddick said. "Our coaches preach that we're one of the most complete teams in the state and we came out here and wanted to pay that complete game, and we did."
"It feels great to get it back from them," Jamin said. "They're a big rival and a very good team. I know a lot of their players and they're great kids, but it feels good to have (the trophy) back here at RFH."
Goals by junior attackman Christian Bockelmann, Devlin, Cashion and Jamin between 7:38 and 4:31 of the first quarter opened up a 4-0 lead for Rumson, Manasquan got on the board via an extra-man opportunity goal by Casey Mulligan with 11.9 seconds left in the first quarter but RFH answered immediately when Jamin scored off the ensuing face-off for a 5-1 lead after the opening 12 minutes. Just when it looked like Manasquan might be going on a run of its own, Rumson reasserted itself with a deflating goal.
"We know they are a team that could come back but we knew if we put them down before they could get a run that was going to be huge, and that's what happened," Jamin said. "We close out the quarter with a goal and they go back to their huddle and don't have that same momentum."
It was more of the same for Rumson from there. The second quarter was a clean slate until Cashion converted a man-up goal with 1:24 left to give Rumson a 6-1 halftime lead. Manasquan was still generating shots although it had only one goal to show for it, so the game wasn't completely out of reach for the Warriors heading to the second half. That changed early in the third quarter, however, when Devlin scored off an assist from Cashion at 9:47 and Josh Harmon scored off a pass from Devlin just 12 seconds later to open up an 8-1 lead.
Throughout Rumson's sizzling start to the game, Swain was dominating the face-off X against another of the Shore's top FOGO's Manasquan junior Max Pauwels. He won 5 of 7 draws in the first quarter, 2 of 3 in the second quarter and went 3-for-4 in the third quarter before closing out the game with wins in 5 of 6 draws in the fourth.
"Tommy was awesome," Devlin said. "When we're winning face-offs like that we're a hard team to beat."
In a seven-goal victory the performance of a goalie isn't magnified as it would be in a closer game, but Croddick was sensational nonetheless, especially early in the game. He had three saves in the first quarter, including a great save on Mulligan at the 9:13 mark when the game was still scoreless. The shots were actually even at 26 apiece but Manasquan had trouble generating high-percentage scoring chances. And when the Warriors did get a good look, Croddick was there to make the stop. He allowed just one even-strength goal all game and that came with 5:44 left in the fourth quarter when Rumson was already up 11-2.
"That's what he does, and it gives confidence to the guys in front of him that they can take some chances and play a little more aggressive because nine times out of 10 he's going to bail them out," said Rumson head coach Marc Moreau. "I'm really proud of his development and the maturity he's shown this year. He played a little as a freshman, split time as a sophomore and would have been the full-time goalie last year. He didn't get the opportunity to get that experience going into his senior year but he came in this year and didn't miss a beat."
"If you come watch us play any game it's going to be the exact same from Croddick," Devlin said. "He's so consistent and you know what you're going to get with him. He's going to make big saves in the big moments."
Mulligan scored another EMO goal for Manasquan late in the third quarter to make it 8-2 but Rumson came out firing in the fourth quarter to blow the game open. Cashion scored at 10:55, Devlin followed with a goal at 10:42 and sophomore defenseman Matthew Bocklemann ripped a goal at 10:31 for an 11-2 advantage.
"We knew we had to keep our foot on the gas pedal the entire time," Devlin said.
Manasquan then scored twice in a 34-second span on goals by senior attackman Matt Porazzo to account for the final scoring margin.
Rumson has now captured SCT titles in 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2021. The Bulldogs have also made the title game in 12 of the 16 conference tournaments. Manasquan has been excellent in recent years and came into the game as the three-time defending SCT champion. Christian Brothers Academy is always a contender and a tough out and has four SCT titles to its credit. Teams like Southern (2015) and Red Bank Catholic (2010() have also broken through to win SCT titles. But over the last 16 seasons since the inception of the boys lacrosse SCT, Rumson has been the standard.
Rumson will enter the NJSIAA South Group 2 tournament undefeated and the goal is to keep that zero in the loss column. There is no margin for error now and Rumson's players, despite their perfect season thus far, are well aware of that. To accomplish their goals and do something no other Shore Conference team has ever done they will have to get through the best of the best in New Jersey.
"I feel like when we play our game we're the best team in New Jersey," Devlin said. "We have to keep bringing it in practice every day and not think about the outside stuff. Just worry about us."
Rumson is the No. 1 seed in the sectional tournament. The Bulldogs have a first-round bye and will face the winner of Tuesday's game between Holmdel and Ocean. There's a high probability Rumson will face Wall in the sectional final, as well. They defeated the Crimson Knights, 10-6, in the SCT semifinals. For those of us outside the program with the luxury of looking ahead, a potential Group 2 championship game between Rumson and Summit would be fantastic.
"Our division is the first goal and now winning the Shore Conference Tournament is the second goal, so we checked that box off," Moreau said. "Now our focus is 100 percent on Group 2 South. There's someone we know really well probably staring us in the face in about a week and a half but we have to get there and no one is going to give it to us. We can't have a day where we don't show up because nobody is good enough to win without giving your best effort, but I'm confident these guys are dialed in and will be ready to go when we get back to practice."
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