The Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) boys lacrosse team that has dominated the Shore Conference this season is hoping that the third time will be the charm in Wednesday’s Shore Conference Tournament championship game.
The top-seeded Bulldogs are playing in their third straight SCT final after having lost the last two championship games. They hope to get over the hump against second-seeded Jackson Memorial when the action gets underway on June 1 at 5:00 p.m. on the turf at St. John Vianney. Rumson, which won the program’s only SCT title in 2007, has not lost to a Shore Conference opponent all season and boasts a regular-season win over Jackson.
"Getting back to the SCT final (and winning) was definitely one of our goals, and especially for me because I missed last year with a torn ACL," junior attack Jack Curran said. "This year is kind of our revenge year. We're going to go get this championship."
RFH boasts a multi-faceted offensive attack led by Curran, sophomore attack Michael Clarke and seniors Mike Huttner, P.J. Maher and Beau Bennardo. That group has been difficult for any Shore Conference team to slow down all season, and it has been particularly lethal in the third quarter in big games.
The Bulldogs trailed Holmdel by a goal at halftime in the SCT semifinals yet came out of the gate to score eight unanswered goals to start the second half on their way to a 14-7 victory. They were tied at two with Jackson at halftime of their regular-season meeting before exploding in the third quarter en route to a 10-5 win.
"All season we've been a third-quarter team, and if you look at the stats we've really busted out in the third quarter," Curran said. "We just seem to turn it on after halftime in every game."
It also helps to have a stout defense led by seniors Matt Gilbertson and Sam Waters along with first-year starting goalie Artie Tildesley.
That group will be faced with having to stop a talented array of Jackson Memorial scorers that includes senior midfielder Bryan Specht and junior attackmen Nick Wolf and Connor Cunningham. The Jaguars also feature one of the top defenders in the Shore, senior Brad Maier, who leads a strong group that also includes Ryan Totin and Max Sunder along with senior goalie Nick Adams. Maier is usually match up with the opponent’s top scorer, which is where RFH’s offensive diversity may help because it’s hard to focus on stopping just one player.
RFH will be trying to prevent Jackson from making history, as no Ocean County team has ever won the SCT in boys lacrosse. The Jaguars are the first Ocean County team to even reach the final since the tournament began in 2005.
A large group of seniors led by Huttner, a Cornell recruit, and Gilbertson, a Dartmouth recruit, will be going all out to help the Bulldogs grab their own piece of history.
"This is a special senior class," Huttner said. "We have 15 of us and everyone has contributed and has a role, and we didn't always have that in past years. The camaraderie is crazy. We don't just want to win for ourselves. We want it for each other."