By Brian Deakyne
JACKSON – Rumson-Fair Haven coach Reid Jackson knows that the Bulldogs are going to see every team’s best shot this season. But on Monday afternoon, the second-year coach had a good feeling that Rumson would see something extra from Jackson Memorial.
After all, both of Rumson’s back-to-back Shore Conference Tournament championships have come at the expense of the Jaguars. The Bulldogs won, 12-3 over Jackson in 2011 and pulled out a come-from-behind 9-8 victory in last year’s tournament final.
And Jackson, who works out with some Jaguars’ players in the off-season, knew they’d be coming hard and fast – and that’s what they did. Jackson handed Rumson its first Shore Conference loss in over two full seasons, holding on to beat the Bulldogs 8-6.
“They told me all winter long, ‘Coach, you stole one from us, we’re going to get you back,’ so we knew they were coming; everyone’s coming,” Jackson said. “They played great, this is a good team. This is the same team, minus two guys that we beat in the Shore Conference [Tournament] last year. It’s a good team.”
Rumson was hampered by a slow start, but after battling back, Jackson Memorial took control to open the second half, scoring four unanswered goals to take a 6-3 lead.
The Bulldogs, after falling behind 2-0, fought back in the second quarter. Junior attackman Dominic Padula took a feed from senior midfielder Mike Villane to get Rumson on the scoreboard, and 12 seconds later, senior attackman Michael Clark ripped a shot into the net to tie the game at two.
The Bulldogs took its first – and only – lead late in the first half, when junior midfielder Chris Hubler took a pass from Villane and ripped the shot from the left wing into the net.
But from halftime-on, it was all Jackson, which recorded its first win over Rumson-Fair Haven in school history.
“Personally, I know every team wants to take us out,” Jackson said. “When I came here, we wanted to take out every team, so the team knows it, it comes with the territory and only one guy’s allowed to come out on top. The pressure is there every game and we try to intensify the practices and we have a good team to. I think it was a wake-up call. Everybody’s getting better, everybody’s got talent and nobody’s going away. This is a good thing for the Shore Conference.”
The Jaguars scored four consecutive goals in the third quarter, including three over a 1:25 span to grab momentum and control of the game.
“In the third quarter they came out and that was the difference maker,” Jackson said. “In the third quarter, they went on a 4-0 run and for whatever reason, our team has a problem possessing the ball. They get a little window of a shot and they take it, as opposed to other teams that really work it for their good shot.”
The Bulldogs made a strong attempt for a rally in the fourth quarter, but the Jaguars were able to win late faceoffs and maintain possession. Without the ball, Rumson struggled to gain any momentum.
Trailing 7-3, junior defensive pole Connor Phillips dragged the ball across midfield and spiked a ball into the crease to draw Rumson within three goals. Clarke added his second goal of the game when he whipped a low shot into the net from the right wing to make it a 7-5 game. But, as it had all afternoon, Jackson had an answer. Less than a minute later, Jaguars attackman Evan Farrar posted his third goal of the game – second of the fourth quarter – to give the Jaguars a comfortable 8-5 lead with just under two minutes remaining.
Senior midfielder Conor Walsh added a goal in the final minute for Rumson, but the Bulldogs ran out of time. It was Rumson’s first loss to a Shore Conference team since it fell to Red Bank Catholic, 8-5, in the 2010 Shore Conference Tournament.
“They have aggressive, great poles,” Jackson said of the Jaguars. “They’re clearing the balls, they’re looking to get on the offensive side, and we saw it from last year. Their poles are athletic and I like the way they play. Being a former defenseman, I was impressed and liked the way they played, they did a great job.”