Winning Ways: 2019 Rumson-Fair Haven Football Preview
To sum up the culture that permeates Rumson-Fair Haven’s football program, head coach Jerry Schulte had a simple yet entirely accurate response.
“These kids don’t know what a mediocre team looks like,” Schulte said. “And also, with the schedule we play, every team we played last year was a top-notch team and almost everybody we played made the states.”
Mediocre has not been part of Rumson’s vernacular for some time now. The Bulldogs are coming off a season in which they won their sixth NJSIAA sectional title, which was also their fifth in the last six seasons, in addition to winning the inaugural Central-South Group 3 Bowl Game. They haven’t had a losing season since 1999 and in the last 10 years have won fewer than nine games only once. Rumson is among the standard-bearers in the Shore Conference and in all of Group 3.
To continue the winning ways, Rumson will once again have to deal with a daunting schedule of opponents in the Shore Conference’s American Division, playing the likes of Red Bank Catholic, Long Branch, Middletown South, Manalapan and Toms River North. The Bulldogs also have nondivisional games against Wall, Mater Dei, and Jackson Memorial. All of those teams will be ranked in the initial Shore Sports Network Top 10.
Rumson will also be tasked with replacing a bevy of standout players from last season, including First All-Shore players Alex Maldjian (RB), Ian O’Connor (TE) and Ryan McCann (OL) on offense, SSN Defensive Player of the Year Keegan Woods (LB), First Team All-Shore defensive end Henry Sullivan, Second Team All-Shore linebacker Christian Lanzalotto, and Third Team All-Shore selections Ethan Ardolino (OL), Isaac Vernon (DL) and Ryan Dupree (DB).
The cupboard is far from bare on Ridge Road, however. Senior quarterback Collin Coles, a Third Team All-Shore selection last season, returns to lead the offense with promising junior John Volker ready to jump in at running back along with returning senior Pete Crowley. Senior Patrick Jamin is back as the leading receiver. On the defensive side of the ball, seniors Gordon Forsyth at linebacker and Drew Frankel at cornerback, and juniors Von Factor at defensive tackle and Ryan Ruane at safety will anchor a unit that has been among the Shore’s best for several years.
The challenges are certainly present for Rumson in terms of navigating its schedule and breaking in many first-year starters, but with a tremendous coaching staff and a championship culture, the expectation is that they will find a way to get it done.
Player to Watch: John Volker, Jr., RB
As a backup to First Team All-Shore running back Alex Maldjian last season, Volker showed flashes of his great potential in rushing for 249 yards and six touchdowns and adding one receiving touchdowns. Volker has bulked up to 205 pounds this season, and his combination of speed and power could elevate him among the best running backs in the Shore Conference.
Player Under the Radar: Patrick Jamin, Sr., WR
Jamin had just 12 receptions for 124 yards and one touchdown last season but came up with some big catches, including a tremendous reception along the sideline to convert a crucial third down in a victory over Woodrow Wilson in the Central-South Group 3 Bowl Game. With leading receivers Ian O’Connor and Jackson McCarthy having graduated, Jamin is the top target for senior quarterback Collin Coles.
Top Unit: Secondary
With two All-Shore caliber players returning, Rumson’s defensive backfield stands out as the most stable position group on the team. Senior Drew Frankel and junior Ryan Ruane, both of whom played safety last season, lead the way along with sophomore John Lista, junior Agnello Pane, and seniors Tyler Prendergast, Joe Calabrese, and Tim Carey. Frankel (6-3, 190) will slide down to cornerback this season while Lista and Prendergast have been working in at strong safety. Pane, Calabrese, and Carey have been working in at cornerback opposite Frankel and Ruane (6-1, 210) reprises his role as the free safety. Ruane made 64 tackles and pulled down three interceptions last season while Frankel had 50 tackles and one fumble recovery.
Rumson will be successful if:
Its new contributors go from green to mean sooner than later. Although there were probably some players who could have contributed at the varsity level last season but were stuck behind standout players, Rumson still returns just four starters on each side of the ball. As mentioned, Rumson’s schedule won’t exactly allow anyone to ease into their new roles. It will be a baptism by fire.
One year ago, Collin Coles was a wide-eyed rookie trying to find his way as Rumson’s new starting quarterback. This year, he’s one of Rumson’s few experienced returners coming off a season where he was a Third Team All-Shore selection.
Coles threw for 1,275 yards and 15 touchdowns last season and was clutch in Rumson’s biggest games, throwing seven touchdowns in the postseason, including a pair against Somerville in the Central Jersey Group 3 final.
“He’s much more mature than last year,” Schulte said. “This time last year he was all over the place, but it’s night and day with this year. He’s elevated himself way up there.”
He’s a Factor
In almost every game he played as a sophomore, Von Factor made people check the roster to see who No. 53 (or in some games, No. 38) was. As part of a deep rotation along the defensive line, Factor made 69 tackles, recorded four sacks, forced a fumble and recovered two fumbles. He was in the backfield a heck of a lot. This year, Factor is the lone returner along the defensive line so his production won’t be a luxury, it will be a necessity.
Back to Backer
After graduating both of its starting linebackers, SSN Defensive Player of the Year Keegan Woods and Second Team All-Shore selection Christian Lanzalotto, Rumson had to find two players to fill those large voids. The solution for one spot has been to move senior Gordon Forsyth from defensive end. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Forsyth had 50 tackles and four sacks last year. Sophomores Charles Newbury (5-11, 175) and Ryan McKay (5-10, 215) have been working at the other spot alongside Forsyth.
At a Glance
Head coach: Jerry Schulte, 4th season (19th overall)
Career record: 88-85-1 (29-7 at Rumson)
2018 record: 10-2 (5-0 in Colonial Division)
Assistant coaches: Jeremy Schulte (def. coord), John Corneliusen (off. Coord.), Joe Murphy (OL), Chris Quinn (WR), Mike Zadlock (DL), Rich Mosca (DL), Matt Walsh (DB), John Wagner (DB), John Andl (RB), Jerry Gagliano (head freshmen), Jason Lippart (assistant freshmen), John Belivance (assistant freshmen), Alex Stein (athletic trainer).
Offense: Multiple pro
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Liam Horan, Sr., DE
Horan saw limited action last year at linebacker but will switch to defensive end this season. Rumson lost a lot along the defensive front, including First Team All-Shore defensive end Henry Sullivan, so the Bulldogs will be counting on Horan to step in and made an immediate impact.
X-FACTOR: The offensive line
Rumson lost its entire offensive line to graduation, which of course leaves a huge void. There are several candidates for the starting positions, none of which have been determined yet. Every team needs a good offensive line to be successful, so the development of this group bears watching.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Owen McLaughlin, Sr., TE
Rumson has to replace First Team All-Shore tight end Ian O’Connor, who graduated, and McLaughlin has fit the bill so far. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior gives Coles a big target over the middle and looks to be a reliable blocker in the running game.
PIVOTAL GAME: Sept. 20 vs. Long Branch
After opening the season with road games at Red Bank Catholic and Wall, Rumson will return home to Borden Stadium to take on the Green Wave in Week 2. Both Rumson and Long Branch are in similar positions in coming off state championship seasons and having to replace a ton of impact players. Given the uncertainty of the roster, Rumson’s record could be 2-0, 1-1 or 0-2 coming into this game.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.