RUMSON — Run left, nothing. Run right, nothing. There wasn’t room up the middle, either. Passing the ball didn’t go much better. It was the kind of night where Rumson-Fair Haven’s defense had an answer for everything.

Behind a dominant defensive effort on Friday night at Borden Stadium, the Bulldogs, ranked No. 6 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, shut down No. 10 Matawan 17-0 in a Shore Conference Class A Central game. Rumson’s defense allowed just 41 total yards to the Huskies, including six rushing yards, while forcing two turnovers and registering six sacks to begin its quest for a third straight state title.

“All week we were working on their offense and the scout team gave us a good look, and we just executed,” said junior linebacker Mike Ruane, who had one of the Bulldogs sacks on Matawan quarterback Jake Burlew. “Defense is a big part of what we do, and tonight we showed we can play.”

Rumson junior linebacker Mike Ruane sacks Matawan quarterback Jake Burlew during the Bulldogs' 17-0 win. (Photo by Mark Brown/B51 Photography).
Rumson junior linebacker Mike Ruane sacks Matawan quarterback Jake Burlew during the Bulldogs' 17-0 win. (Photo by Mark Brown/B51 Photography).

“We preach team defense, so this was big,” said senior linebacker Max Pfrang. “They are a good team with lots of athletic players, plus this is a rivalry.”

Junior quarterback Mike O’Connor led the Rumson offense with 115 yards rushing and a touchdown on 16 carries. O’Connor also threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to 6-foot-6 sophomore wide receiver Elijah McAllister. Thomas Chapin added a 21-yard field goal.

Defensively, the Bulldogs used sacks by Ruane, Butch Clark, James Melia, Feinberg and two by Liam Adams. Mike Caruso had a fumble recovery and Mike Murdock had an interception. The longest gain Matawan had during the game went for 14 yards, and they Huskies could gain just two first downs.

“(Matawan) is scary, and I thought (Burlew) played great against Vianney,” said Rumson head coach Bryan Batchler. “They have a lot of guys and they’re not bad up front. It’s just one of those things where we play sound, fundamental defense and have been doing it for a long time.”

Rumson got on the board on its second offensive series b driving 60 yards in six plays. O’Connor ripped off a 44-yard run up the middle on a quarterback keeper, moving the ball to the Matawan 8-yard line. The Huskies defense held, however, forcing Rumson to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Chapin and a 3-0 lead with 3:17 left in the first quarter.

On the next play from scrimmage Caruso recovered a fumble that gave Rumson the ball at Matawan’s 22-yard line. O’Connor was able to convert on fourth-and-five from the 17 with a 12-yard pass to senior wide receiver John Kingdon, and two plays later O’Connor plunged into the end zone on a quarterback sneak to put Rumson up 10-0 on the final play of the first quarter.

Matawan’s defense was doing its best to stay with Rumson, but the Bulldogs kept winning the field position battle and putting the Huskies in difficult spots. A sack by Ruane on third-and-one halted Matawan’s next drive and forced the Huskies to punt from their own 17-yard line. Rumson got the ball back at Matawan’s 35, but fumbled two plays later with Matawan senior linebacker Aliem Shaw recovering.

The Huskies could not do anything from their own 30, however, going three-and-out and sending the ball back to Rumson. The Bulldogs then embarked on a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive that put them up 17-0 and capped the scoring. A 28-yard run by O’Connor on third-and-19 put the ball at the Matawan 30-yard line, and an 11-yard run by Bryan Hess moved the Bulldogs inside the 20-yard line. Two plays later and on third-and-seven, O’Connor lofted a pass for McAllister, who used his basketball frame to box out the Matawan defensive back and cradle the pass for the touchdown reception. Chapin’s extra point made it 17-0 with 2:12 left in the first half.

“It’s great to have (McAllister) as a big target in the red zone,” O’Connor said. “He has his rebounds and box-outs down.”

Rumson sacked Burlew twice on Matawan’s final drive of the first half, sending the Huskies to the locker room having gained just eight total yards and zero first downs. It didn’t get much better in the second half as Rumson ran the clock down with its running game and continued to frustrate Matawan’s offense. It all added up to a great start to the season and with a key divisional victory already under their belts.

“We preached that they weren’t going to be able to drive the ball against us,” Batchler said. “We wanted to run and hit and punish them. The kids are so coachable and they don’t care about who gets the glory. They just want to take care of their responsibility.


Box Score

No. 6 Rumson-Fair Haven 17, No. 10 Matawan 0


MatawanRumson-Fair Haven
First downs29
Passing yards3532


Matawan (0-2, 0-2) 0 0 0 0 – 0

Rumson (1-0, 1-0) 10 7 0 0 – 17


Scoring summary

Thomas Chapin 21-yard field goal

Michael O'Connor 1-yard run (Thomas Chapin kick)

Michael O'Connor 16-yard pass to Elijah McAllister (Thomas Chapin kick)


Individual statistics

Rushing – M: Isaiah Phillip 9-29, Shawn Ramcheran 1-12, Jake Burlew 9-(-35); RFH: Michael O'Connor 16-115, Mike Vecchiarelli 21-75, Bryan Hess 5-25, Lachlan Hull 2-(-3).

Passing – M: Jake Burlew 8-12-1 35; R: Michael O'Connor 3-7-0 32.

Receiving – M: Alex Pierce 2-19, Shawn Ramcheran 3-7, Aliem Shaw 1-6, Isiah Phillip 2-3; RFH: Elijah McAllister 1-16, John Kingdon 1-12, Lachlan Hull 1-4.

Interceptions – R: Mike Caruso.


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