By Brian Deakyne
RUMSON — The relationship between a quarterback and wide receiver is a special one.
Built on trust, the bond doesn’t work if one doesn’t believe the other can fill in and make the play when needed.
Rumson-Fair Haven senior quarterback Danny Roberto always trusts his wide receivers. Always.
Even after junior Sam Shaud dropped the potential game-winning touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and on the very next play, dropped a ball that would have given the Bulldogs a first down deep into Shore Regional (0-1) territory, Roberto never lost hope.
That’s why it should come as no surprise that when Roberto heaved a fourth-down pass down the left sideline in what would be the game-tying drive, it was Shaud who hauled in the 34-yard pass, dragging one foot in-bounds to keep Rumson’s (1-0) chances alive.
The catch eventually led to a game-tying field goal from junior Jake D’Amelio as time expired. D’Amelio connected on a 29-yard field goal as time expired on a running clock to send the game into overtime.
There, D’Amelio drove home another field goal — this one from 36 yards — to help the Bulldogs to a 13-10 overtime win over the Blue Devils in their 2012 season opener last Friday night.
“I owe Sam Shaud my life,” Roberto said. “Our defense was amazing. They held them to 10 points the entire game, and I owe everything to the defense.”
Rumson was playing its opener after reaching the Central Jersey Group II sectional final in back-to-back seasons. With several starters graduated, the Bulldogs entered this season with questions surrounding them about their ability to be competitive this season.
Roberto finished with 12-29 for 166 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Roberto tossed his third interception midway through the fourth quarter, and trailing 10-7, many had the feeling the game was over.
But, it was far from it.
The Bulldogs got the ball back with 2:26 left, where Roberto was able to work magic. On RFH’s final play from scrimmage before its game-tying field goal, the field goal team rushed onto the field with 20 seconds remaining. They were able to get the snap off, and send the game to overtime.
After D’Amelio’s overtime field goal, the Bulldogs defense stood tall again, holding the Blue Devils to a four-and-out, sealing the win, which was the 100th career for head coach Shane Fallon.
“I’m just proud of our kids, I don’t care about the 100th win. The only thing that matters is that we’re 1-0,” Fallon said. “This just tells me that this is a team of character and we’re battle-tested.”
Rumson trailed 10-0 since the second quarter, but its defense held Shore Regional scoreless for the entire second half.
Senior halfback Conor Walsh carried the ball 22 times for 125 yards, but left the game with a left knee injury in the fourth quarter. While back-up halfback Travis Clark finished the game out for RFH, Walsh was left on the sidelines, with his knee wrapped and on crutches. Walsh had an MRI on Monday and is unavailable for tonight’s game according to Fallon.
Senior John Ryan was the leading receiver for Rumson, hauling in five catches for 54 yards. Junior Melquan Reevey caught the only touchdown for the Bulldogs — a 25-yard strike in the fourth quarter from Roberto.
D’Amelio also missed a 21-yard field goal attempt late in the first quarter that would have tied the game. Additionally, the Bulldogs dropped four passes in the endzone throughout the night.
But Roberto never gave up on his offense.
The win keeps the Bulldogs expectations high as the season continues, but the senior QB says the offense is just getting started.
“We’re a young team and we’re just getting used to things. We got it going in the second half,” Roberto said.
Tonight, the Bulldogs will take on St. John Vianney, who smoked Monsignor Donovan, 40-0, in its season opener last Friday.
While Rumson’s offense struggled for the majority of the game last weekend, it proved one thing: it can find ways to win games.
“As a program, we expect to win. We go through our preparation expecting to win,” Fallon said. “That’s it. The bar is high here, we’ve had a great run here the last few years and it’s their turn to step out in the spotlight.”
Rumson-Fair Haven will be at St. John Vianney (1-0) tonight to take on the Lancers at 7 p.m.