The Rumson-Fair Haven Bulldogs return 17 seniors this season for first-year head coach Will Gould.
That talent and experience was on full display under the lights at Holmdel on Monday night.
The Bulldogs defeated Holmdel 3-2 in an early critical Class A Central divisional game. Senior Eamon Kitson netted the game winner in the second half from about 20 yards out for the Bulldogs.
“It’s still kind of a blur, the ball came right out to me, and I just wanted to hit it as hard as I could,” Kitson said.
Kitson, who has committed to the University of Virginia, knew his team had to lock down after putting in their third goal.
“We gave up two really bad goals early in both halves, after getting that third goal, we just had to put them away,” Kitson said.
Gould was not surprised when the Hornets put away two goals 30 seconds into the start of each half.
“Holmdel presses really hard in the first seconds of each half, and tonight they showed what they could do,” Gould said. “We wanted to get ahead in this game quickly, and the exact opposite happened in the first 30 seconds.”
Although Gould’s game plan backfired early in the game, he wasn’t surprised when his team responded with two go-ahead goals.
“We have seniors on this team that are going to lead even when things get really bad,” Gould said. “There are a lot of teams that are going to fold when getting scored on early in the game. Having all these seniors pull together proves what they can do when they stay together.”
Holmdel went up 1-0 after a goal from freshman Santo Arena off a cross from junior forward Gino D’Agostino.
Kieran Doherty answered for Rumson in the eighth minute with a header off a cross from Pete Martin. The Bulldogs then took a 2-1 lead in the 32nd minute on another header from Matt Dell.
The Hornets again fired out of the gate at the start of the second half after D’Agostino crossed the ball to Eric D’Aleo’s head. D’Aleo directed the ball to Jason Kyriacou, who equalized for the Hornets in the 41st minute.
That set the stage for Kitson, who knows expectations are high for the Bulldogs this season.
“This is definitely one of our biggest games for all of us,” Kitson said. “Holmdel has had a solid grip on A Central for years, so coming in and beating them was huge.”
Kitson, who starts every game up top for the Bulldogs, likes to drift back in the middle as the game moves on. That habit of drifting back led him to be in the perfect spot for the game winner.
“I like to be on the ball more then I usually am,” Kitson admitted. “You can get more goals hanging up top, but you want to be in the mix to be able to create the goals.”
Rumson now sits atop A Central, but Holmdel head coach John Nacarlo will have his squad ready for the rematch when these teams meet Oct. 5 at Rumson.