Nov 26, 2019 | Wall


By Mike Ready
WALL – While watching film of Rumson-Fair Haven  in the days leading up to the Central Jersey Group III final, the Wall coaching staff saw something they thought they could exploit by moving their star running back Casey Larkin to the outside as a wide receiver on certain plays where they felt he would see one-on-one coverage.
It turned out to be a genius move as Larkin caught two long touchdown passes from junior quarterback Logan Peters in the first half and caught another bomb late in the fourth quarter that essentially iced the game in the Crimson Knights’ 14-13 win over Rumson in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III final. 
It’s Wall’s first state sectional title since 2016 and fifth overall in program history. 
The top-ranked Crimson Knights are now 11-0 on the season for the first time since 1983 and following their Thanksgiving Day game with Manasquan, they’ll play Woodrow Wilson on Sunday, Dec. 8 at Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium at 10:00 am in the Central/South Group III Bowl Game.  
“We saw single coverage on Casey all night and we attacked it,” said Wall head coach Tony Grandinetti. “When we needed a big play we went up-top to Casey. Originally, we scouted their film and we saw when we were in certain formations they were going to be one-on-one on an island backside and we said, ‘if we get that, we’re going on top.’” 
Wall got the coverages they were looking for and Larkin and Peters did the rest. 
Larkin caught three passes for 111 yards on the night and all three were gut-punches to Rumson’s chances of repeating as champions. 
“They put me on an island and they knew Logs (Peters) could make the throw,” said Larkin. “They put me on an island for a reason, and that’s for one-on-one coverage. We did that on purpose.” 
Peters completed 6-of-10 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns and had a couple of runs where he picked up some tough yardage for first downs. 
On Wall’s second possession of the game following Rumson’s only drive of the first half, which resulted in a missed 29-yard field goal, they drove to the 25-yard line in seven plays. 
Facing a second-and-4 at the 25, Peters saw Larkin had one-on-one coverage on the right side and hit him stride on a fade with a perfect pass in the back of the endzone for a 7-0 lead after Max Oakley’s extra-point kick. 
“We set him up on the backside because we felt he might have a one-on-one,” said Peters. “I know in my mind if he’s got one-on-one, I’m going to take that match-up every single time. So I went right at it and he made a crazy catch in the back corner (of the endzone). You can’t ask for much more as a quarterback.” 
The score remained 7-0 until late in the first half. 
The Wall defense forced Rumson’s third three-and-out of the half and sophomore Jackson Coan returned a Nick Ferrara punt to their own 47-yard line with 2:13 remaining in the half. 
Four plays later on third-and-11 from the Rumson 41, Larkin won another one-on-one match-up on a post pattern with Peters tossing a perfect strike to Larkin who out-legged the nearest defender into the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 1:12 left in the half. 
Wall’s defense held Rumson to 42 total yards of offense in the first half, including 16-yards rushing on 11 attempts and 26 yards through the air. Rumson’s leading rusher, John Volker, was limited to 10 yards on eight carries. 
It would be a much different story, however, in the second half after the Bulldogs made some adjustments,  abandoning their running game in favor of the short passing game. 
On their first possession of the second half, Rumson senior quarterback Collin Coles, who completed 18-of-30 passes for 109 yards, threw the ball on their first seven plays and eight of the first nine plays for 58 yards.  
On fourth-and-2 at the 9-yard line, Coles faked the pass before tucking the ball in and fighting his way down to the 1-yard line. Senior Pete Crowley finished off the drive with a 1-yard plunge up the middle to pull the Bulldogs to within 14-7, after Michael Piperno’s extra-point kick. 
The 12-play, 66-yard drive took six and a half minutes off the clock. 
“Our base defense is Cover 2, so they saw a weakness against the quick routes and saw that Lacey was doing that to us (in last week’s semifinal),” said Larkin, who is also a standout defensive back. “We then started manning up and adjusting to it.” 
Rumson’s defense stepped up its game, too, in the second half and forced a Wall three-and-out following their touchdown drive. Frank Passantino then shanked his punt out of bounds and the Bulldogs took over in prime field position at the Wall 30-yard line with 2:59 remaining in the third quarter. 
On third-and-5, sophomore wide receiver William Carr drew a pass interference call giving Rumson a first down at the 12-yard line. Three plays later on fourth-and-2 from the 4-yard line, Cole – with linebacker Colin Riley in his face – hit junior wideout Patrick Jamin for a 4-yard touchdown pass.
However, Piperno’s extra-point kick clanged off the right upright and the score stood at 14-13 with 27 seconds left in the quarter. That was a costly miss that eventually proved to be the difference in the game. 
The momentum was clearly on the Rumson side after the touchdown, but the missed extra point got the Wall crowd back into it and shifted the momentum back to the Knights. 
“We took a little time to adjust (on defense) and the momentum, we felt it, it changed,” said Grandinetti. “But it absolutely went back in our favor when they missed the extra point. And with the game on the line in the state championship and we got our defense on the field, we’re confident.” 
On their ensuing possession, the Knights had a third-and-7 at the 50-yard line, but Rumson sophomore defensive end Charles Moriarty burst through the line to sack Peters for a 5-yard loss forcing a punt.
The Bulldogs took over at the 22 and on third-and-9, Wall’s standout linebacker Charlie Sasso stopped Volker after a 2-yard pickup on a screen pass and the Bulldogs punted.  
Wall then took over at their own 32 following a penalty on the punt with 7:02 left in the game. Up to this point in the second half, the Knights had gained just 13 yards of offense on their two possessions. 
On third-and-4 from the 38, Peters picked up a crucial first down on a second-and-third effort run that netted five yards. Three plays later on third-and-9 from the 44 the Crimson Knights, seeing single-man coverage on Larkin, went back to the same play they scored on in the first quarter. 
Peters again nailed the pass to Larkin, who was brought down at the 10-yard line for a 46-yard pickup and a first down. 
Larkin had been battling leg cramps but shook it off to make the play of the game.  
“Casey’s a special guy,” said Peters. “I don’t think there’s many guys in the state that can stick with him. He’s got that knack for making big plays.” 
“He knows me better than anyone else – he’s my best friend,” said Larkin of his quarterback. “He’s going to throw that ball and put it where I can run under it. He’s a great quarterback.”
Rumson’s John Lista and Gordan Forsyth stopped Matt DeSarno for a 4-yard loss on third-and-5 and Peters fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone turning the ball over to Rumson at the 14.
Larkin’s third-down catch extended the drive but more importantly it helped drain six minutes off the clock leaving Rumson with just 1:15 to get into position for a game-winning field goal. 
After getting a first down at the 27, three straight incompletions, including two drops, left Rumson with a  fourth-and-10 with 32 seconds left in the game. Coles then fumbled the snap and was swarmed over by a host of Wall defenders turning the ball over to the Knights with seconds left in the game. 
“With the state championship on the line, if we’re going to have one unit on the field it’s our defense,” said Grandinetti. “We always feel confident in them.” 
Wall’s defense, which has allowed an average of just nine points a game this season, limited Rumson to 144 total yards in the game. 
“This is surreal,” said Larkin, who also gained 38 yards on eight carries. “I had a feeling we were going to make a run this season, but it’s just unbelievable now that it actually happened.” 
With Larkin, Peters and Sasso and host of other underclassmen returning, look for Wall to make another run at the championship next season. 


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