Passing the Torch: 2022 Rumson-Fair Haven High School Football Preview
For a program that has been among the most stable and consistent in the Shore Conference over the past decade, it was very fitting of Rumson-Fair Haven to undergo a coaching change that required little to no adjustment in scheme, approach, and familiarity.
Championship-winning and Hall of Fame-worthy head coach Jerry Schulte stepped down in April and it was his son, Jeremy, who was tabbed as his successor. Jeremey Schulte was Rumson's defensive coordinator for the past several seasons under his father and an RFH assistant before that when his dad was the Bulldogs' DC. Now, they have switched roles with Jerry moving back to coordinate the defense.
For the players, it's been a seamless transition.
"We all love coach Schulte so it’s not much of a change," said senior safety Beau Kemler. "The standard has been set at Rumson by them, all the former coaches and players, and everyone in the community."
Most of the coaching staff remains intact, as well, which bodes well for a season in which Rumson will be breaking in several new starters after graduating a ton of exceptional players from a team that went 9-2 and reached the South Jersey Group 3 final. Gone are SSN Defensive Player of the Year John Lista, fellow star linebacker Ryan McKay, All-Shore defensive end Aiden Moriarty, quarterback Colin Kennedy, running back Geoff Schroeder, and all five starting offensive linemen. That's a lot to replace, no doubt, but Rumson has proven time after time that it can rebuild on the fly and barely miss a beat.
Just three starters return in the Bulldogs' multiple offense: senior wide receiver Scott Venancio, junior wide receiver Nick Rigby, and junior tight end Markus Brown, who moves over from wide receiver. Venancio was the team's leading receiver last season with 10 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns. The rest of the roster is talented but relatively inexperienced at the varsity level.
Senior Nick Costello looks to take the reins of the offense at quarterback with junior Jackson Gallagher and sophomore Owen O'Toole also competing at the position. The running backs are juniors Alastair Orr and Griffin Kolb along with senior Brayden Dill.
Rumson has a recent history of impactful tight ends, and this year's group certainly has size that jumps off the page. Brown, who is 6-foot-7, moves to tight end from wide receiver, and senior Will Rehder is 6-foot-6. The 'short' guy of the group is senior Mashall Halfacre, who is only 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. Halfacre was having a very good season on defense last season before a serious leg injury ended his season.
Rumson's senior-laden offensive line was a strength last season but is certainly a question mark entering this year with five new starters. Rumson offensive line coach Joe Murphy is one of the best in the business so it wouldn't be surprising at all to see this unit come together quickly. Senior Spencer Branin (6-4, 270) is at left tackle, senior Julien Devlin (5-11, 225) and junior Luke Marascio (6-0, 210) are working at left guard, junior Will Timpone (6-0, 215) is the center, junior Caden Winters (6-0, 245) and sophomore Matt Smith (6-1, 215) are at right guard, and junior James Sharkey (6-1, 250) will play right tackle.
Rumson had the No. 1 scoring defense in the Shore last season allowing a minuscule 6.8 points per game with four shutouts. Graduation took four of the team's top-five tacklers and its top-two sack leaders, however. There is a lot of production to replace, and while we don't yet know who will step up to do so, recent history suggests someone will indeed take up the mantle as Rumson's next All-Shore level defensive player(s).
Five starters return in the Bulldogs' 4-2-5 defense with three along the defensive line and two in the secondary. Halfacre is healthy again and back at defensive end along with Brown, Rehder, and junior Will Tenzca. Devlin and junior Cooper Bunnell (68 tackles) are returning starters at defensive tackle with senior Justin Kuo and Winters also in the mix.
Replacing Lista and McKay at linebacker is a tall task and the Bulldogs will call on senior Jack Thomas, sophomore Austin Kiernan, and junior Reid Elsas to man the linebacker positions. The secondary features five players with the two strong safeties sometimes walking into the box to play as linebackers. Seniors John Connors and Zach Iwan and junior Danny Cook are at cornerback with seniors Kemler (3 INTs) and Ryan Kalman returning as starters at strong safety. The free safety position has seniors Luke Mikolajczyk and Luke Jamin working at the position.
On special teams, seniors Oli Lorraine and Dominic Panke and junior Ryan Child are competing for the kicking and punting jobs.
Rumson won the American Division last year by defeating Donovan Catholic, Wall, Colts Neck, and Toms River North. The Bulldogs remain in the American Division, which is even tougher this year with Red Bank Catholic, Donovan Catholic, Middletown South, Manalapan, and Wall on the schedule. The Bulldogs also have a tough nondivisonal game against Toms River North at Rutgers to open their season.
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
Returning starters: 3
QB: Nick Costello, Sr.; Jackson Gallagher, Jr.; Owen O'Toole, So.
RB: Alastair Orr, Jr.; Griffin Kolb, Jr.; Brayden Dill, Sr.
WR: Scott Venancio, Sr., RS; Nick Rigby, Jr., RS; Sean Trinder, Jr.
TE: Markus Brown, Jr., RS (at WR); Will Rehder, Sr.; Marshall Halfacre, Sr.
LT: Spencer Branin, Sr.
LG: Julien Devlin, Sr.; Luke Marascio, Jr.
C: Will Timpone, Jr.
RG: Caden Winters, Jr.; Matt Smith, So.
RT: James Sharkey, Jr.
Returning starters: 5
DE: Marshall Halfacre, Sr., RS; Markus Brown, Jr.; Will Rehder, Sr.; Will Tenzca, Jr.
DT: Julien Devlin, Sr., RS; Cooper Bunnell, Jr., RS; Justin Kuo, Sr.; Caden Winters, Jr.
LB: Jack Thomas, Sr.; Austin Kernan, So.; Reid Elsas, Jr.
CB: John Connors, Sr.; Zach Iwan, Sr.; Danny Cook, Jr.
SS: Ryan Kalman, Sr., RS; Beau Kemler, Sr., RS
FS: Luke Mikolajczyk, Sr.; Luke Jamin, Sr.
K/P: Oli Lorraine, Sr.; Dominic Panke, Sr.; Ryan Child, Jr.
Head coach: Jeremy Schulte, 1st season
Career record: 0-0
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: John Corneliusen (Offensive Coordinator/QB); Jerry Schulte (Defensive Coordinator); Joe Murphy (OL); Chris Quinn (Special Teams CoordinatorWR); Kyle Marinelli (DL/JV DC); Glenn Grainger (DB); John Bellavance (DB); Mike Zadlock (K); John Andl (RB); Brandon Wall (OL/JV OC); Jerry Gagliano (Freshmen Head Coach); Randy Kalman (Freshmen asst.); Ryan Finnegan (Freshmen asst.); Rob Orrok (Strength & Conditioning); John Velcamp (Video Coordinator); Alex Stein (Athletic Trainer).
Player to Watch: Scott Venancio, Sr., WR
Venancio is one of the few returning offensive players with varsity experience and is looking to build off a junior season in which he caught 10 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
Player Under the Radar: Cooper Bunnell, Jr., DL
Bunnell made 68 tackles as a sophomore last season and with Rumson's defensive leaders from a season ago having graduated, he has a chance to step to the forefront and become a dominant presence.
Impact Newcomer: Alastair Orr, Jr., RB
Charlie Volker, Matt Vecchiarelli, Peter Lucas, Alex Maldjian, John Volker, Geoff Schroeder. The last six Rumson running backs have all been All-Shore level players. Can Orr continue the tradition?
Rivalry Game: Oct. 21 at Red Bank Catholic
Any time the Bulldogs and Caseys meet it's a big deal, and this year's game, which takes place in Week 8, could be contested with the American Division title on the line. RBC won last season's meeting, 21-14, in front of a standing-room-only crowd at RFH's Borden Stadium.
Sept. 3 - vs. Toms River North (at Rutgers), 4 p.m.
Sept. 9 - vs. Donovan Catholic, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 - vs. Wall, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 - @Manalapan, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 - vs. Southern, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 - vs. Middletown South, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 - @Freehold, 12 p.m.
Oct. 21 - @Red Bank Catholic, 7 p.m.