WEST LONG BRANCH – When it comes to the Shore Conference Tournament final and the Rumson-Fair Haven boys lacrosse team, there is no comparison right now.
The No. 1 seed Bulldogs elevated themselves into rarefied air on Tuesday afternoon at Monmouth University when they defeated No. 2 seed Southern, 17-10, to win their fourth straight SCT title.
The Bulldogs, who already owned the most consecutive wins in the SCT final before Tuesday’s showdown with Southern, extended that streak by one more year and in the process won their fifth overall SCT title, the most for any school in the 10-year history of the boys lacrosse SCT.
“This group of seniors have been playing lacrosse as a group probably since they were in third or fourth grade,” Rumson-Fair Haven coach Andy Eastwood said. “They play a lot of lacrosse. They play for each other. They are a great bunch of kids with a very bright lacrosse future.”
Some of those seniors like midfielder Chris Hubler (four goals, one assist), midfielder Chris Sutphen (three goals), attackman Dominic Padula (three goals, one assist) and Colin Shea (two goals, two assist) made their presence felt early in the game.
Southern (15-2), which had its 15-game winning streak snapped with Tuesday’s loss, jumped out to a 2-0 lead when junior attackman Dylan Jinks (four goals) and junior midfielder Shawn McManus (one goal) scored with 9:16 and 9:01 left in the first quarter. However, Rumson-Fair Haven, which won its third game in a row, responded with a game-breaking six-goal run to end the first quarter with a 6-2 lead.
During that game-breaking run, Sutphen had two goals and Hubler, Shea and Padula each had a goal. The combined effort vaulted the Bulldogs to their insurmountable lead.
“We have a lot of talented kids back there and they clear space for the dodger and they make a double move and they put the ball in the goal,” Eastwood said. “They are pretty good one-on-one players so if the slide doesn’t come, the advantage is going to be for the offensive guy if there is no slide help.”
The game was a rematch of last year’s SCT final, in which Rumson-Fair Haven defeated Southern, 14-5. The Rams became only the third school (Rumson-Fair Haven and Jackson Memorial being the other two) to make it to back-to-back SCT finals. The Rams were looking for their first championship.
“This group of juniors have been in back-to-back SCT finals. They have been in the SCT semifinals three straight times. They’ve played in the NJSIAA Group IV championship game,” Southern coach John Pampalone said. “These kids know how to play and compete. Right now, they are disappointed but they’ll come out firing and be ready to go (for our next game) and hopefully we are back here next year and ready to give it another shot in the SCT final.”
While Jinks and junior midfielder Chris Smith (two goals, two assists) led the Rams’ offense, junior attackman Brendan Mullen contributed two goals and sophomore attackman Nick Simonelli added one goal. Southern junior goalie Brendan Lefanto (10 saves) and Rumson-Fair Haven senior goalie Bryce Metzger (10 saves) each made dramatic saves at different moments in the game for their respective teams. In addition, Southern’s faceoff specialist senior Bill Dowd (16 wins) and Rumson-Fair Haven’s faceoff specialist senior Ryan Campbell (13 wins) competed in one of the best faceoff battles the SCT final has ever seen.
Overall, only three schools, Rumson-Fair Haven, CBA (four SCT titles) and Red Bank Catholic (one SCT title) have won the SCT in its 10-year history. Rumson-Fair Haven has also played in six straight SCT finals and has made the most overall SCT Final appearances (8).
“The only feeling I can compare it to was the (NJSIAA sectional) football championship. It (this SCT title win) is definitely up there because that (the football championship) was one of the best moments of my life and there is no better feeling than winning as a senior,” Rumson-Fair Haven senior defender J.T. Jennings said. “You can win this as a freshman, sophomore or junior but when you know it is your last one and you know you gave it all you had for four years and you had a great ride, there is no better way to go out in the Shore Conference.”
When it comes to winning an SCT title, Rumson-Fair Haven’s senior class knows how to do that the best.
Sherlon Christie: email@example.com