WEST LONG BRANCH
There is no question that defense is the strength of the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School football team.
On Saturday night, at Shore Regional’s Robert E. Feeney Field, the Bulldogs’ defense held firm in the fourth quarter despite Shore having the ball in Rumson territory almost the entire quarter.
Rumson held the Blue Devils to three points on three possessions in the final quarter to hold on for a 13-6 win over its rival and give first-year head coach Bryan Batchler his first career win.
The defensive heroics enabled tuchdown runs of 84 yards in the second quarter and 42 yards in the third quarter by junior running back Charlie Volker to stand up. It was the second straight season Rumson had beaten Shore in a hard-fought game. It defeated the Blue Devils in overtime in last year’s opener.
Shore began its final possession at the Bulldogs’ 43 with 1:53 remaining. It quickly moved to the Rumson 29 after a 14-yard Matt Muh to Brian Miller completion.
However, that was as far as the Blue Devils got.
Senior defensive lineman Kevin Clayton dropped Muh for a 2-yard loss on first down. Senior linebacker Thomas Martello sacked Muh for a 7-yard loss on second down. Rutgers University-bound defensive end Donald Bedell and sophomore linebacker Max Pfrang teamed up to hold Miller to a 4-yard gain on a screen on third down and senior defensive back Sam Shaud intercepted Muh’s desperation pass in the end zone on fourth down with 11.7 seconds left to clinch the win.
Shore had driven to the Rumson 13 on its previous possession, only to turn the ball over on downs when Muh’s pass to Miller into the right corner of the end zone on a fourth-and-7 was broken up with 3:06 left.
The Blue Devils had begun that possession on the Rumson 36 after a Rumson penalty for interference with the punt returner while he was attempting to catch the punt. Shore had overcome a first-and-23 when Muh and senior receiver Nick Kessler teamed up for a 33-yard completion to the Rumson 16.
A 22-yard field goal by junior placekicker Jake Monteiro with 6:50 remaining, his second field goal of the game, had pulled Shore within, 13-6. The Blue Devils, after a fumble recovery on a Rumson screen pass, had driven from the Bulldogs’ 47 to the 5.
Shore had squandered an opportunity late in the third quarter when it fumbled on first down at the Rumson 14 after it had driven from its own 20.
Rumson had increased its 6-3 halftime lead to 13-3 1:27 into the third quarter when Volker sped 42 yards up the middle untouched. That score came one play after an interception off a deflection by junior defensive back Reid Jackson. The Shore coaching staff vehemently argued for a pass interference call before the deflection.
Volker (22 carries for 188 yards) had given the Bulldogs a 6-3 lead with 5:11 left in the first half with his 84-yard run. He took a stretch play to the right, turned the corner and raced down the sideline untouched.
Monteiro, one of the best kickers in the Shore Conference, had given Shore a 3-0 lead with a 43-yard field goal with 6:05 left in the first quarter.