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RUMSON — Two games, 162 yards allowed, nine first downs.

Zero points.

This Rumson-Fair Haven defense is something special.

On Friday night in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Borden Stadium, Rumson, ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, crafted another defensive masterpiece by shutting out No. 2 Donovan Catholic, 14-0, in a Shore Conference American Division game that delivered yet another major statement. 

After blanking then-No. 1 Wall in their season-opener, the Bulldogs limited an explosive Griffins offense to just 125 yards and eight first downs, which included 53 yards rushing. Short touchdown runs by senior running back Dan Garvey and senior quarterback Colin Kennedy were all the Bulldogs needed to move to 2-0 with wins over teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in consecutive weeks.

Donovan was coming off a 54-point outburst in a Week 1 win over Archbishop Stepinac (NYC) but couldn’t get anything going against a technical and physical Rumson defense. Senior defensive end Aiden Moriarty was a constant presence up front and senior linebackers John Lista and Ryan McKay were tackling machines for all 48 minutes. 

“Our coaches always emphasize technique and alignment and doing your job,” Moriarty said. “When we play as a unit and do what we’re supposed to do, we do this, we shut teams out.”

“We have a group of humble guys who are willing to put the team above themselves,” McKay said.

The Bulldogs made multiple plays behind the line of scrimmage against a fast and powerful Donovan Catholic offense. Morarity had 1.5 sacks and helped force a fumble on a critical fourth down, while Lista, McKay and junior defensive lineman Julian Devlin had once sack each, junior defensive lineman Marshall Halfacre recorded half a sack and senior defensive back Alex Cady had a tackle for loss. Senior defensive back Owen Sullivan forced a fumble and junior Ryan Kalman recovered it.

Rumson’s offense gained just seven first downs against a strong Donovan Catholic defense, but the Bulldogs were opportunistic and clutch. On Rumson’s first offensive series, Kennedy connected with senior tight end Aidan Cassucio for 17 yards on a fourth and 3 from the DC 31-yard line. That set up Garvey’s 6-yard touchdown run that gave Rumson a 7-0 lead.

The second scoring drive for RFH came on the first possession of the second half. It took the Bulldogs just six plays to march 70 yards, mostly thanks to a 52-yard pass from Kennedy to sophomore wide receiver Nick Rigby. Kennedy polished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge on a quarterback sneak.

Click here for a photo gallery by Richard O'Donnell

That was the extend of Rumson’s offensive output, but with its defense playing the way it did, it was more than enough.

“That’s a great football team (Donovan Catholic),” Lista said. “I think what it came down to is our playmakers., When it came time to make a clutch play we showed up.”

The Rumson defense forced four three-and-out series among Donovan’s eight offensive possessions. Late in the first half, Donovan got its running game going behind senior quarterback Jalin Butler and moved to the RFH 10-yard line. Facing a fourth and 6, the Griffins originally lined up to go for it but called timeout and sent out the field goal unit instead. The 27-yard field goal attempt missed wide to the left. 

Then, late in the third quarter, Donovan’s defense came up with a huge stop to stonewall RFH on a fourth and 1 at the Rumson 46-yard line. The Griffins now had great field position and eventually moved to the Bulldogs’ 25-yard line. That brought up a fourth and 2 and another clutch play from the Rumson defense. Butler kept the ball on a designed run by Morarity was right there in the backfield. Rumson's defense swarmed and Sullivan was able to punch the ball out where Kalman scooped it up and returned it to the 46-yard line. 

The turnover occurred on the final play of the third quarter, and while Rumson went three and out after the fumble recovery, the defense returned the favor when Donovan got the ball back. On Rumson’s next offensive series they chewed up some clock before punting the ball back to the Griffins with 5:19 left in regulation.

Time was not on Donovan’s side at this point trailing 14-0 and starting at their own 20-yard line. Senior quarterback Anthony Perrelli entered the game for Butler and connected with Mysun Rush-Esdaile for eight yards but was promptly sacked by Halfacre and Moriarty on the next play. On third down, Perelli completed a pass to senior tight end Levi Wilkins but the ball was immediately jarred loose. Kyree Drake picked up the loose ball and scooted for a couple more yards and the play was ruled a catch and a fumble, giving DC a first down off the 13-yard gain. McKay sacked Perelli on the next play but a 15-yard facemask penalty on RFH move the ball to the 46-yard line.

The Griffins hit their biggest play of the game on a third and 10 when Perelli hit Drake over the middle and the shifty senior wideout made several tacklers miss for a 22-yard gain. But three plays later, Devlin dropped Perelli for Rumson’s fifth and final sack of the game.

Rumson’s start to the season is remarkable with shutout victories over Wall and Donovan Catholic. Wall entered the season ranked No. 1 in the Shore and No. 6 in New Jersey and had not lost to a Shore Conference team since 2018. Donovan entered the season ranked No. 3 in the Shore and No. 13 in New Jersey. The Bulldogs’ defensive showings these first two weeks are also that much more impressive when considering that Lista, McKay and Moriarty are the only returning starters from last season’s unit.

“No. 1, we have great leaders on our defense,” Lista said. “Aiden Moriarty; Ryan McKay is the glue to our defense. He’s calling out everything and I can’t give enough credit to him, he had a great game. And we have a lot of young players making plays around us. We really mesh well as an entire defensive unit.”

Rumson’s defensive line of Moriarty, Halfacre, senior Robert Thomson and sophomore Cooper Bunnell has been great against two excellent offensive lines. They’ve allowed Lista and McKay, two of the Shore’s very best linebackers, the opportunity to run free and make plays unblocked.

“It’s fantastic, I feel like I can do anything, that nothing’s really getting in my way and I can just focus on making my reads and getting to the right point. And having John on the backside who I know can cover up the cutback or get play side and I get the cutback, it just works.”

After the win over Wall last Sunday, Lista’s main concern was not suffering a letdown in Week 2. The Bulldogs faced a similar situation in 2019 after upsetting Red Bank Catholic to open the season only to lose to Wall the following week. Turning the page quickly and staying focused was even more imperative considering Rumson had just four days to prepare for Donovan.

“1000 percent,” Lista said. “Having four days to recover was a little tough on our players but we did what we had to do and we came out here and executed.”

Toughness is Rumson’s best trait. Year after year, they field physical and resilient squads that more often than not, find a way to win.

“It’s the makeup of the kids,” said Rumson head coach Jerry Schulte. “People who don’t know Rumson I think greatly misunderstand what’s going on here. All we here all the time is that they’re spoiled rich kids who get everything they want. Until they play. After that, they don’t say that anymore. It’s the nature of our kids, they’re just tough kids who love to play football.”

Rumson’s recent history is that of state championships and carrying the torch as one of New Jersey’s best public-school programs. Through two games, it’s clear that everything is on the table for the Bulldogs.

“It’s not like we’re going to deny we can be special but we’re going to stay humble and hungry,” Lista said.

If Week 1’s win was a statement victory, what would the players call Friday night’s triumph?

“This was step two to the state championship,” Moriarty said. 

BOX SCORE

No. 3 Rumson-Fair Haven 14, No. 2 Donovan Catholic 0

Donovan Catholic

Rumson-Fair Haven

First downs

8

7

Rushes-yards

23-53

32-99

Passing

8-13-0 

3-4-0

Passing yards

72

78

Fumbles-lost

2-1

0-0

Penalties-yards

3-15

8-60

 

1

2

3

4

F

Donovan Catholic (1-1, 0-1)

0

0

0

0

0

Rumson-Fair Haven (2-0, 2-0)

7

0

7

0

14

Scoring Summary

Dan Garvey 6-yard run (Justin Worobel kick)

Colin Kennedy 1-yard run (Justin Worobel kick)

Individual Statistics

RUSHING — DC: Jalin Butler 11-38, Nunes Bukula IV 5-12, Kyree Drake 3-5, Michael Thomas 1-2, Anthony Perelli 3-(-3); RFH: Geoff Schroeder 15-46, Colin Kennedy 12-38, Dan Garvey 3-13, Scott Venancio 2-2.

PASSING — DC: Anthony Perelli 3-4-0 38, Jalin Butler 5-9-0 34; RFH: Colin Kennedy 3-4-0 78.

RECEIVING — DC: Kyree Drake 3-36, Levi Wilkins 3-25, Mysun Rush-Esdaile 2-11; RFH: Nick Rigby 1-52, Aidan Cassucio 1-17, Scott Venancio 1-9.

Click here for an expanded photo gallery by Richard O'Donnell

Rumson-Fair Haven vs. Donovan Catholic Football

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