Caldwell Caps Undefeated Season With Group 2 Championship
Photo by: Anthony Ferrara (@af.visualsss)
The Caldwell Chiefs came into the Group 2 Championship boasting the longest winning streak in the state at 27 games. Their opponent across the field was the Rumson-Fair Haven Bulldogs at Rutgers’ campus in Piscataway. The Chiefs would go into cold, windy SHI Stadium and take care of business against the Bulldogs, capping a second consecutive undefeated season with a group title and letting the state’s longest winning streak live to see another season.
Caldwell started with the ball and moved straight down the field. Running back Joey Marinello was used early and often, racking up 41 yards on the first drive alone. The Chief’s superstar athlete Harry Boland finished the drive with a four-yard dive for the end zone. The extra point sailed wide left, and Caldwell took the 6-0 lead early.
Rumson-Fair Haven quarterback Owen O’Toole was making the difference for his team early. His pocket presence was outstanding, navigating a collapsing pocket almost every play and making the right decisions swiftly. O’Toole passed the 2,000 yard passing mark on the season during the first half, and led the Bulldogs down the field for their first score. Running back Brayden Dill punched it in from two yards out to finish the drive and take the 7-6 lead.
Caldwell continued to threaten throughout the first half, but ball security plagued them. They fumbled the ball a total of three times in the first half alone and lost possession on two of them. Both fumbles came as they were threatening on the Bulldogs’ side of the field. Caldwell was out gaining and outplaying RFH, but they were making self-inflicting mistakes that were costing them red zone trips and points on the board.
The Chiefs figured it out coming out of halftime, using some trickery to get on the board. Caldwell drove down the field but stalled at the 14 yard line and elected to kick. At least that’s what everyone thought until backup quarterback Louie Anemone rolled back with the snap and found Michael Mignone in the back corner of the end zone for a toe-tap touchdown. Caldwell assumed the 12-7 lead. The Caldwell defense stood tall and put the ball back in quarterback Luke Kurzum’s hands after a turnover on downs. Kurzum and the Chiefs made short work of the drive, with Boland finding the sideline and riding it like a jetstream straight into the endzone for a 19-yard touchdown. A failed Philly Special on the two-point conversion made it a 18-7 game.
Caldwell was not out of the mud yet. The Bulldogs took the ball back down 11 points and O’Toole took them down the field. He finished the drive himself, falling into the end zone from the one yard line to cut the lead to 18-14. The game would hold like this. The Caldwell Chiefs would play outstanding defense over the course of the fourth quarter and force Rumson-Fair Haven to turn the ball over on downs inside the red zone around the two minute mark. This sealed the 29th win in a row for this Caldwell program and delivered them the first-ever Group 2 Championship.
There were many great performers in this game. Rumson-Fair Haven came out on the wrong side of the ball game, but O’Toole passed for 212 yards with 18 rushing yards and a touchdown. Luke Mikolajczyk has made a name for himself all season, and he did not disappoint in this game. He seemed to be in on every play and finished with 2 tackles for loss and 14 total tackles to lead the game. For Caldwell, their top defensive players were Ryan Lawrence, Boland, Marinello, and Julian Casale. The Chiefs rushed for 254 total yards between Marinello (97), Boland (87), and Kurzum (70). Boland was the game-breaker for the Chiefs, contributing on offense and defense while scoring two of their three touchdowns.