Jerry Schulte has had a great three-year run while serving as the head football coach at Rumson-Fair Haven High School.
Since the start of the 2016 season, the Bulldogs have posted a 29-7 record and claimed two NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 sectional playoff championships, in 2016 and 2018.
Last fall, Schulte’s team even won the very first NJSIAA Central-South Jersey, Group 3 Bowl Championship, when Rumson-Fair Havem scored a 26-18 victory over Camden’s Woodrow Wilson High School at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
But going into 2019, the coach is facing his biggest challenge yet. After the 2018 season, the Bulldogs lost a lot of key players on offense and defense.
Most importantly, they lost all five members of a powerful offensive line. They also lost standout running back Alex Maldjian, who racked up 1,732 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns as a senior last fall.
That rushing attack was the key to Rumson-Fair Haven’s championship season, and it’s pretty much all gone. Schulte, though, is undaunted.
He is confident in his new offensive linemen, his two returning running backs and in his old school approach to football.
“There are no big system changes. We’re still basically a pro system,” Schulte said. “Use the tight end and two backs.”
“We’re not into the run-pass option and this five wide, throw the ball all over the place stuff,” he added.
Schulte is not sure who his new starting offensive linemen will be, and he won’t start figuring that out until the Bulldogs put the pads on in mid August. But he does know who his new workhorse backs will be.
It’s hard to replace Maldjian, now a back for Middlebury College, with just one guy. So Schulte will turn to Maldjian’s two sidekicks from last fall, John Volker and Peter Crowley, who combined for 432 yards and eight touchdowns in 2018. Volker, a rising junior, really showed a lot of potential, scoring six times.
“They both are excellent backs,” Schulte said.
The coach may not prefer to sling the rock all over the field, but he probably can if he wants to this year. Rumson-Fair Haven’s 6-3, 205 pound quarterback from last year, Collin Coles, is back for 2019. He threw for 1,278 yards and 15 touchdowns a year ago.
But Coles’ top two receivers from last year, Ian O’Connor and Jackson McCarthy, graduated earlier this summer. Replacing them will be another challenge for Schulte and his staff.
That challenge applies to Rumson’s defense, too. The Bulldogs lost most of the starters from their defense last year.
Only two defensive linemen from Schulte’s 2018 rotation, Von Factor and Jack Kelly, and two defensive backs from his secondary, Drew Frankel and Ryan Ruane, are back for 2019.
But again, Schulte is not too worried. He is going to stick to his 4-2-5 unit.
“We don’t wrap it around any one player, so anybody out there will be a solid player,” Schulte said.
The fourth year coach is confident because he has a developmental philosophy that works on an annual basis: focus on what kids can do, not on what they can’t do.
“We’ll tweak it based on what guys can do and we won’t be an exact carbon copy as last year, but we will be pretty close,” he said.
“We have a high standard,” Schulte added. “There’s no reason not to have it this year.”
Rumson-Fair Haven will open its season on Sept. 6 at home against Red Bank Catholic High School.