By Jim Hintelmann
RED BANK – If Red Bank Catholic had any let-down from its tough double overtime loss to unbeaten Delbarton in the previous week’s NJSIAA Non-Public III semifinals, it certainly wasn’t evident in Friday’s impressive 21-0 shutout over previously unbeaten Rumson-Fair Haven Regional.
The win wrapped a spectacular season for RBC (10-1) which saw it win the B Division North title, set a school record for wins and win its first playoff game since 1998.
“We knew that we had a special group of kids,” said RBC coach Jim Portela. “We didn’t have any worries about the loss to Delbarton. We put it all in the past.”
RBC excelled on both sides of the ball with its offensive line opening up some good holes for running back Larry Redaelli and Chris Donald, while its defense, led by tackle Joe Coscarelli, held a potent Rumson offense to just 113 yards total offense.
“I felt that our offensive line was going to be the strong point of the team before the season began,” said Portela “Rumson has a great defense and the offensive line took it as a challenge.”
Both teams played without their top running backs. RBC was missing 1,500 yard rusher John DiStefano, who suffered a dislocated kneecap in the Delbarton game while Rumson’s Connor Riley missed the game with a shoulder injury.
Redaelli, though, a 5-7, 165-pound sophomore, did an outstanding job replacing DiStefano, rushing for 141 yards in 30 carries and scoring a touchdown. He had 96 yards rushing in the Delbarton game.
“There was a lot of pressure on me,” admitted Redaelli, “but I just decided to relax and the team encouraged me.”
RBC scored on its first three possessions with James Taylor setting up the first touchdown with a 30-yard return of a Rumson punt to the Rumson 31.
Four plays moved the ball to the 18 where quarterback Ryan Spahr threw a touchdown pass to Greg Golden on a slant pattern. Jim Toomey kicked the first of three extra points.
RBC held for downs and a Rumson punt rolled dead at the RBC 24. Mixing a short passing game with some good running from Redealli, RBC moved to the Rumson 13 in 11 plays. On the next play, Spahr, who completed 11 of 19 passes for 82 yards, passed over the middle to Chris Whitlock, who made a fine diving reception on the goal line for the touchdown.
“Ryan did a nice job of reading the defense and then making good decisions,” said Portela.
RBC closed out its scoring in the second quarter after getting the ball on the Rumson 45 following a punt.
After a short pass, Redaelli got the ball on the next six carries, scoring from the 10 on a drive up the middle.
“This is one of the best teams I’ve seen in my 10 years here,” said Portela “This team showed a lot of character and the seniors gave us great leadership.”
Rumson’s lone threat came early in the fourth quarter when it reached the RBC 24, but it lost the ball on a fumble with Taylor recovering for RBC.
“The loss to Delbarton was upsetting,” admitted Coscarelli, “but we got over it on th bus ride home. To win a game like this and get a shutout was amazing. It was our Super Bowl and a good way to end it.
“We expected a fight all season,” he said. “We were ranked No.1 in the Shore in the summer and everyone wanted to take us down, but we fought through it.”
Despite the loss, Rumson coach Shane Fallon was upbeat after the game as he looks ahead to Saturday’s Cenral Jersey Group II championship game with Matawan at Rutgers.
“Sometimes things don’t go your way,” admitted Fallon. “but we have a team of great character. RBC is very physical at the line of attack and do things that other teams didn’t do.
“Playing a physical team like RBC should help us against Matawan,” he noted. “We’ll look at the films and then get ready for Matawan.”
The future looks bright for RBC despite losing some top players to graduation. Six defensive starters are back and there is plenty of talent from an unbeaten junior varsity team along with an 8-1 freshman squad.
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