By Brian Deakyne
LITTLE SILVER — It didn’t matter what the score was; Rumson-Fair Haven knew they were going to get Red Bank Regional’s best test.
Between them, the score never matters, really. Likewise, team records didn’t matter, either.
The Bucs played the Bulldogs tough for nearly a half, but Rumson-Fair Haven scored five goals in the final 3:13 of the first half to take a commanding five-goal advantage and trudge their way to a 9-4 win over Red Bank Regional, Monday afternoon.
“Absolutely, that’s what we wanted the whole game,” Rumson-Fair Haven head coach Jim Barbiere said.
The Bulldogs were led by their first attack line of Jack Curran, Chris Sutphen and Michael Clarke, who accounted for seven of RFH’s nine goals on the day.
“We really have a lot of chemistry going right now. It’s good to have early in the season, and being the captain it’s nice to have that chemistry this early in the season,” Curran said.
“Our coaches have been stressing our relationships with our teammates and we all have great relationships on and off the field. We’re a good team right now.”
Had it not been for Bucs’ goalie Pat Quinn, the Bulldogs might have jumped out to a bigger lead and turned the game into a lopsided affair. Instead, the senior goalie turned away shot after shot and kept Red Bank in the game in the first half.
“A lot of props to that guy. He is very, very good,” Curran said. “He gave us a lot of trouble.”
Clarke put the Bulldogs on top, 3-2, when he took a pass from Kevin O’Connor and ripped the shot past Quinn. It was RFH’s first lead since Curran gave them the lead on the game’s first possession, 54 seconds into the game, and a lead they never relinquished.
Less than a minute later, Sutphen buried home a shot, taking a pass from Curran from behind the net.
Ryan McCausland added a goal 46 seconds later for Rumson-Fair Haven, ripping home a shot, man-up, from the high-slot to give RFH the 5-2 lead.
Sutphen and Clarke each added another goal in the final minute of the second quarter to add to the Bulldogs’ lead. Sutphen took a pass from Dan Babiak and bounced the shot past Quinn and 31 second later Sutphen hit Clarke with a pass on a fast break and he finished the shot, putting the Bulldogs’ up 7-2 heading into half-time.
“That was our big quarter, and really the only quarter, in my opinion, that we played a full 12 minutes,” Curran said. “I couldn’t be happier, we kind of stuck it to them and it gave us the comfort to win that game.”
Clarke added his game-high fourth goal in the third quarter, getting an assist from Curran on the play.
The Bucs came back strong in the fourth quarter, getting early goals from Chris Manning and Will Noglows to pull within four goals with just over seven minutes remaining, but RFH responded with a goal from Babiak to put the game away.
“I think we played a little bit better but we made too many mental mistakes,” Barbiere said. “You can’t take three penalties in the fourth quarter.”
“I give my hat off to RBR, they came ready to play and I knew they were going to come ready to play. It’s teenagers playing against each other and I don’t care what you’re record is or who you’ve played before. It’s two tight communities, a very good team and I thought they gave us a heck of a fight.”
Curran put the Bulldogs’ on top in the games’ first possession, and it took nearly ten minutes for another goal to be scored. Red Bank’s Max Paris dodged past a defender near the crease and slipped in front to pound home the game-tying goal late in the first quarter.
The Bucs took their only lead later in the second quarter when Jake Smolokoff dodged at the top of the box to beat one defender and smoked a goal into the top part of the net, putting Red Bank on top, 2-1.
The Bulldogs answered quickly, with Sutphen taking a pass from Mike Villane and putting home his first goal of the game. Connor Phillips hit Villane with a whip-pass near midfield and sent the Rumson-Fair Haven midfielder on a fast break.