Shore Regional rolled up 520 yards on the ground as it downed third-seeded Palmyra (10-2), 56-28, at Kean University to win its second straight NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group I championship.
Shore Regional ended the year with a perfect 12-0 mark — its first unbeaten season since 1981, when the Blue Devils went 11-0.
In the Central Jersey Group III final, Rumson-Fair Haven used a similarly punishing ground attack at High Point Solutions Stadium to down previously undefeated Red Bank Regional High School (11-1), the third seed, 21-0, in a game that was not that close.
It was the third straight sectional title — each time Rumson-Fair Haven played a previously undefeated team — for the Bulldogs, who won Central Jersey, Group II in 2014 (Delaware Valley Regional High School) and 2013 (Weequahic High School).
Doug Goldsmith carried the ball 39 times for 255 yards and scored five touchdowns, while backfield mate Jack Britton ran for 220 yards and scored a touchdown of his own for Shore Regional. Palmyra gamely hung in thanks to a few Shore Regional turnovers and the arm of quarterback Max Smyth, who threw for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns.
Shore Regional took a 28-14 lead into halftime and took control of the game thanks to an interception by Devin McLaughlin on Palmyra’s first drive of the second half. The Blue Devils went on to score three straight touchdowns to put the game away.
The Panthers scored two late touchdowns, and their 28 points were the most the Blue Devils allowed this season.
“We knew Palmyra could score points,” Shore Regional coach Mark Costantino said. “We wanted to put the game out of reach so they couldn’t make quick strikes. I challenged the seniors at halftime. This was their last game. I wanted them to make it count.”
Rumson-Fair Haven, meanwhile, also used its running game to pound out first down after first down. On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs’ defense allowed the potent Buccaneer offense just 114 total yards. Linebacker Mike Ruane and safety Mike Murdock, both juniors, had 17 tackles between them.
“Our defense was outstanding, and that set the tone,” Rumson-Fair Haven coach Bryan Batchler said. “Our running game was strong and our special teams were solid. When all of that happens, you usually win.”
Batchler’s team scored a pair of first-half touchdowns. Bryan Hess, who ran for 75 yards on the day, scored on runs of 41 and 2 yards to give Rumson-Fair Haven a lead it would not relinquish.
The Bulldogs got the ball to open the third quarter, but the Buccaneers forced them to punt. Rumson-Fair Haven, in turn, held and Red Bank Regional fumbled as it tried to punt. Noah Stodenmire recovered the ball inside the Buccaneers’ 20-yard line. Just three plays later, Batchler’s team added another seven points as quarterback Michael O’Connor scored on a highlightreel 17-yard run.
Red Bank Regional later drove deep into
Rumson-Fair Haven territory in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs defense held, and the Buccaneers came away empty.
“I expected us to play well,”
Batchler said. “Red Bank had a great year, but I think we’re more battle-tested. We had 11 kids back from last year, and they know what it’s like to play on a big stage in front of 8,000 people. I think that was a major advantage for us.”
The loss ended a magnificent turnaround season for Red Bank
Regional. The Buccaneers won the
Shore Conference’s Class B North crown, downing Red Bank Catholic High School and Ocean Township High School along the way.
After besting South Plainfield High School, 30-0, in the first round of the playoffs, Red Bank Regional faced Ocean Township again in the semifinals. The Buccaneers came away with a thrilling 21-14 win.
“It’s a tough way to end the year,” coach Nick Giglio said. “Our goal was to get better and better with each game. The guys really focused and put everything they had into the program. They beat some very good teams, too. I’m proud of what they were able to accomplish.”
Lancers fall in Non-Public finals
DePaul Catholic High School spoiled St. John Vianney High School’s bid for a perfect season, defeating the Lancers, 40-17, in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group III finals.
The championship game was played Dec. 5 at Rutgers University’s High Point Solutions Stadium.
The Spartans broke open a tight game, scoring 20 unanswered points.
Anthony Brown’s 6-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter lifted St. John Vianney to within a field goal of the Spartans, 20-17.
However, DePaul responded with a 61- yard scoring drive late in the quarter capped by Kareem Walker’s 7-yard run to push the lead to, 27-17.
Nasir Hooker scored on runs of 34 and 2 yards in the fourth quarter to put the game away for the Spartans (6-6). Brown passed for 244 yards and a touchdown — 21 yards to Marc Ellington — in the loss.
Chris Chukwuneke was the best defensive player on the field. The Lancers’ standout had 15 total tackles, 12 of which were solo stops.
The Lancers, champions of the Shore Conference A Central Division, finished the year at 11-1.
It was a big year for Lancers football as St. John Vianney signaled a changing of the guard in Shore football among the Non- Public schools. The Lancers thrashed defending state champion Red Bank Catholic High School, 49-6, in the state semifinals.