2010-12-09 / Sports

RFH turns tables on Matawan and wins CJ II football crown

BY MATTHEW ROCCO Correspondent
Rumson-Fair Haven pulled off an upset victory in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II sectional final at Kean University, defeating the defending champion, Matawan Huskies, 13-7.

The Bulldogs’ defense made the difference on Saturday with an incredible performance. Rumson was ready for Matawan’s explosive offense, which was held to 62 total yards and two first downs.

“We thought we had a chance from the beginning, but we did not think we would win the way we did,” Rumson head coach Shane Fallon said. “We did not expect to shut a team like Matawan out. It shows you how well the players executed.”

Rumson’s defense created the turning point of the game when it prevented Matawan from scoring on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Matawan received possession of the football after forcing a fumble on a Rumson punt attempt. The Huskies’ offense advanced deep into the red zone only to be stopped again, a moment that was indicative of Rumson’s defensive performance the entire game.

“That goal-line stand gave us a huge momentum swing. Matawan plays a lot on emotion, and we were able to squash that,” Fallon said.

Matawan’s only score came on a 93-yard punt return with just over two minutes left in the game. Rumson recovered the onside kick that followed to secure the victory.

Offensively, Rumson quarterback Michael Villapiano ran for 104 yards and scored on an 18-yard run to give the Bulldogs a 13-0 lead, capping off an offensive attack that tallied 312 total yards.

The Bulldogs grabbed a 7-0 lead in the second quarter when Connor Riley (84 yards on 17 carries) scored on a 3-yard run. The TD capped a 69-yard drive that was highlighted by a 48-yard pass from Villapiano to Evan Benkert.

Rumson (9-3) certainly mustered enough motivation to upset Matawan, despite losing to the same team in October, 48-21. This time around, Matawan (11-1) was handed its first loss since last year. The team was riding a 19-game winning streak.

“We were better prepared defensively,” Coach Fallon said. “We had a game plan in place, and we did not have to make any adjustments. We knew the key was to make them play from behind, and we did just that.”

“We wanted to eat up the clock and keep them off the field. We wanted to run on offense. We did exactly what we wanted to do,” Fallon added.

The team also found motivation in its underdog status. Rumson’s coaching staff reminded the players throughout the week that their play could ultimately defy the pre-game chatter.

“We preached to the kids all week, forget what everyone and the press is saying. All that matters is what they say after. I’m sure [the players] are feeling pretty good about themselves today,” Fallon said Sunday.

The victory over Matawan gave Rumson its first state title in the program’s history. “I’m happy for the players. This win will stay with them,” Fallon said. However, the Rumson coach acknowledged that his team is now on everyone’s radar, and its underdog status may now be in the past.

“The bar has now been raised higher,” Fallon added. “We are going to want to do it again. We’ll see how we handle success.”

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