By Jim Hintelmann
RUMSON – Rumson-Fair Haven Regional closed out its finest football season last year when the Bulldogs upset previously unbeaten Weequahic, 14-6, to win the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group II championship.
Despite some major graduation losses, another successful season appears to be on the horizon.
“I’m very optimistic,” said coach Bryan Batchler, whose team set a school record for wins with an 11-1 record a year ago. The lone loss was to parochial power Red Bank Catholic.
“We’ve been very good the past 10 years,” he said. “We can beat any team on our schedule, but any one of those teams can beat us also. As the defending champions, every team on our schedule will be aiming for us. We just have to take one game at a time.”
A big reason for Batchler’s optimism is the return of senior tailback Charlie Volker, who is coming off a brilliant junior campaign during which he rushed for 2,108 yards in 278 attempts while scoring 24 touchdowns. He has made a verbal commitment to Princeton.
“He’s very talented,” Batchler said. “He rushed for 240 yards as a sophomore and scored four touchdowns but he was injured and missed the second part of the season.
“Volker is very strong and can squat 480 pounds and bench press 380. He also has 4.5 speed and is a very explosive player,”
Rumson will run a Multiple Pro offense and the quarterback position will be a competition between Jack Reid and sophomore Mike O’Connor.
“Reid is a smart player and has three interceptions at safety last year,” Batchler said. “O’Connor played on our unbeaten freshman team a year ago and is very talented.”
Rich Clark will be the tentative starter at fullback with Murray McHeffey, Jack Moore and Lachlan Hull sharing time at wide receiver.
Cooper Cuje returns at one tackle position with James Oncea and Tim Leonard battling for the other starting tackle job.
Probable starters at guard will be Brendan Carr and Jack Woods, backed up by Max Pfang. Greg Elsas is back at center
Rumson will use a 4-3 defense with Elsas and Mike Ruane at the ends, backed up by Izzy Dunning. Tackle Ben Eisenstadt, who had 6.5 sacks a year ago is one of the top defenders. Cuje and Woods also will get plenty of playing time.
Pfang, who has 70 tackles last season, and Tucker Briggs lead a good group of linebackers. James Melia and Michael Murdock are competing for the third linebacker spot.
Rumson has a strong secondary with Reid and Sam Eisenstadt having four and three interceptions, respectively, last season. Other cornerback prospects are Connor Kelly, Mike Caruso and Thomas Chapin. Kelly converted 20 of 22 extra points a year ago.
Rumson has an important opener Sept. 13 when it travels to Matawan. The two teams split a pair of NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championship playoff games with Rumson winning in 2010 and Matawan returning the favor in 2012.
“Right now we are focusing only on Matawan,” Batchler said. “We’re used to having tough openers.”
Rumson’s schedule also will have a different look this year with two of its biggest rivals missing. After 57 years, the Rumson-Red Bank Catholic Thanksgiving Day rivalry has come to an end. RBC dominated the series with Rumson’s last win coming in 1990. Shore Regional will take RBC’s place.
Also not on the schedule is Ridge Road rival Red Bank Regional. That series ended when the Shore Conference had a realignment.
RFH 2014 Football Schedule:
Sept. 19, Away vs. Matawan, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26, Home vs. Monmouth, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2, Home vs. SJV, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10, Away vs. Long Branch, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18, Away vs. Manasquan, 1 p.m.
Oct. 24, Home vs. Lakewood, 7 p.m.
Oct. 31, Home vs. Raritan, 7 p.m.
Nov. 7, Home vs. Holmdel, 7 p.m.
Nov. 26, Away vs. Shore, 7 p.m.
Please click here for the 2014 Rumson-Fair Haven football roster: Rumson-Fair haven 2014 Football Roster.
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