BY DOUG McKENZIE Staff Writer BY DOUG McKENZIEStaff Writer JOHN SZPARA Anthony DePompa (44) and Chris Carroll (53) lead a parade of Raritan players following their 35-12 win over Carteret on Sunday in the CJGroup II championship game at Rutgers. In the days leading up to Sunday’s Central Jersey Group II championship game, there was a lot of talk about the way the Carteret defense has shut down some of the state’s top offensive teams this season. Many were speculating that the Ramblers’ defense would make the difference against Raritan on Sunday at Rutgers Stadium in New Brunswick, and would slow down what has been one of the state’s most prolific offensive attacks. FARRAH MAFFAI staff Hazlet’s Jeff Papcun celebrates the Rockets’ first touchdown during the second quarter of Sunday’s game. Apparently, the Rockets took all of those prognostications personally, as they rolled past the Ramblers, 35-12, en route to winning their first-ever state football championship. There were some anxious moments early on for the Raritan faithful, as head coach Bob Generelli’s squad fell behind 6-0 in the first quarter — the first second-quarter deficit they had faced since they beat RBC seven games ago. PHOTOS BY FARRAH MAFFAI staff Above, Raritan wide receiver Shane Meyer looks to put a move on Carteret’s Mike Collier during Sunday’s win in New Brunswick. At left, Carmen Dente makes an acrobatic catch between two Carteret defenders. But once the second quarter began, the Raritan offense clicked into high gear, and like it had all year, proved to be an unstoppable force. With junior quarterback Andrew Mandeville leading the way, the Rockets mounted their attack. With the first half coming to a close, Raritan found itself of the Carteret 22-yard line, facing a fourth-and-9. Normally, you’d think field goal. But not with this offense. Mandeville took the snap and fired a strike to Jeff Papcun over the middle for the touchdown, and with Rick Jaeger’s kick, the Rockets had a lead they would never relinquish. Then it was the Raritan defense’s time to take over, as James Bunk quickly picked off a John McNellis pass after the defensive line turned up the heat on the Rambler quarterback. With the momentum in their hands, the Rockets padded their lead, as Mandeville orchestrated another quick-strike drive, which culminated in a Matt Fitzpatrick 11-yard scoring run, and a 14-6 lead. As the teams entered the half, it was Raritan that was in control, and beginning to smell its first state title. In the third quarter, Raritan didn’t let up, getting two more scores — the first on a 1-yard run from Mandeville, and the second on a 11-yard TD pass from Mandeville to Papcun — to take a 28-6 lead. Carteret managed its second touchdown in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 28-12, but Raritan responded with its final score — a 3-yard run from Robert Dickens following a drive that included several bruising runs by Fitzpatrick (15 carries, 50 yards). When the final whistle blew, there was nothing left to prove for the Raritan team. They entered the season expecting big things, with yesterday’s result as the ultimate goal. While Mandeville played his usual brilliant game, which included 77 yards rushing and eight passes for 112 yards, the entire offensive unit truly deserves praise for the way it performed week in, week out for Coach Generelli this year. They were considered an offensive power when the season began, and will be remembered as a juggernaut from now on. But equally impressive is the Raritan defense, which never garnered the headlines, but continually dominated play this year, regardless of the opposition. Sunday’s performance, when the Rockets allowed just 168 yards of total offense and picked off McNellis three times, was simply the latest in a long line of defensive clinics put on by the Rockets this year. At 12-0, the Rockets made history this season. They expected to be contenders. They were much more than that.