By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr
Matt Pennell, senior quarterback for the Blue Devils of Shore Regional, fired a bullet to his junior wide receiver Nick Rew, who was in the Rumson-Fair Haven end zone. At first it looked as if the Bulldogs were going to intercept the pass, but it went directly through the defenders hands into the tight grip of Rew.
That touchdown and extra point by Gill Goldsmith broke a 7-7 tie with 10 minutes to play in the third Annual Devil-Dawg Bowl. It eventually gave the Blue Devils a 14-7 victory, and their third consecutive bowl win.
During the entire first half both teams marched up and down the field, but they were unable to get into the end zone. In the third quarter things started to pick-up. With just over four minutes left in the Mark Russo ran the ball in for a seven-yard Shore Regional touchdown, and the extra point by Goldsmith gave Shore a 7-0 lead. That touchdown capped a 49-yard 12-play drive.
Rumson-Fair Haven came right back at the Devils going 59 yards and finished off with a 23 yard touchdown run by a one yard touchdown run by Alex Maldjian. That score came with just 22 seconds left in the quarter.
That winning fourth quarter touchdown by Shore was set up with a 48-yard pass play from Pennell to Paul Christopher. “We had that play several times this season for Paul, but it never worked out because of penalties or just unable to connect. However, I told Paul that it will work and when it does it will be big. I’m glad in his last game the play finally developed for him,” said Costantino.
RFH had two opportunities late in the fourth quarter. The first ended when Jack Volker, who played quarterback for the second half of the game for the Bulldogs, threw an incompletion. They had one more chance, but Shore’s Jack McCrae intercepted the Volker pass at the line of scrimmage.
Rumson-Fair Haven which is playing in a state final next week pulled their starting quarterback Mike O’Connor after the first half. He was under a lot of pressure from the Blue Devils defense and the Bulldogs coaching staff decided to rest him for the big state game.
Pennell finished his senior year completing six of nine passes for 99 yards and one touchdown. On the ground he had 11 carries for 30 yards. Christopher had three catches for 71 yards. Josh Campi had 20 yards rushing on nine touches, Quadir Lawson had 10 carries for 26 yards, Russo had nine runs getting 30 yards and one touchdown and McCrae had five yards on his one touch.
For the first time in five seasons the Blue Devils will not be playing in an NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 1 final. They won the last two, but last week were beaten by the Blue Bishops of Asbury Park in the semifinals.
“We suffered a disappointing loss last week, and to be honest I didn’t know how they would play tonight against Rumson,” said Mark Costantino, head coach of the Blue Devils. The Rumson-Fair Haven game has turned out to be a big rivalry and this year was no exception. “Our boys came out tonight and were ready from the first snap.”
“This was a tough season as we were a very young team. We played a lot of sophomores and juniors. Next season we will be stronger and have the experience and hopefully get back to the championship game,” added Costantino.