RUMSON – The Rumson-Fair Haven Regional boys lacrosse team was within 40 seconds of advancing to the NJSIAA Group I championship game for the second year in a row Saturday, May 24, when it was the victim of a stunning collapse.
The top-seeded Bulldogs led No. 10 Arthur L. Johnson (ALJ) from Clark, 9-8, with 40 seconds left when the visitors scored two goals within a 10-second period to take away what seemed to be a certain Rumson victory.
“It was frustrating,” Rumson coach Andy Eastwood said, “but give credit to Arthur L. Johnson. They finished the job. It was disappointing because we had 18 seniors on the team. They really wanted this and worked very hard for it.”
With 50 seconds left, ALJ was called for a roughing penalty, which would have given Rumson possession with a one-goal lead, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called on a Rumson player on the same play. The costly dead ball foul gave ALJ possession.
In just 10 seconds, Matt Pedicine scored the tying goal and, on the ensuing faceoff, ALJ’s Joe Francisco got possession and scored the winning goal with 30 seconds remaining. Overall, ALJ won 10 of 12 faceoffs in the second half.
Rumson had one more chance after winning the faceoff, but ALJ goalie Marc Roessle knocked away a last second shot by Ryan Campbell to preserve the victory.
“We’ve been talking about this all year,” said Francisco, who scored six goals in the game. “We did this for all of our families, brothers and fans who came down here.
“There was no set play on the last goal,” he said. “Our mindset was to win the faceoff, get the ball downfield and put it in the net.
“We struggled with the fast break all year,” he noted, “but we worked hard and did it right today.”
ALJ came into the game with a misleading 9-11 record, compared to Rumson’s 17-4 mark, but North Jersey high school lacrosse still seems superior to the rest of the state.
“South Jersey still is behind North Jersey,” Eastwood said.
Rumson, as it had done on a number of occasions this season, got off to a quick start with goals by Dominic Padula, Robbie Garavente, Lucas Seckler and Chris Sutphen giving the Bulldogs a 4-0 lead.
ALJ gave an indication of what was to come by scoring the next three goals, but as Rumson pulled away and the Bulldogs seemed to have the game won, a goal by Sutphen made it 9-7 with 3 minutes left.
Francisco, however, scored at the 2:43 mark and that set the stage for the wild finish.
Rumson still had a fine season, capped by its winning the Shore Conference championship for the fourth year in a row, but its main goal of winning a state championship just fell short.