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Fast start lifts Ramapo past River Dell 35-27



In a meeting of the top two seeds in the North 1, Group 3 section last week at Matty Certosimo Field in Oradell, the Ramapo Raiders(8-1) jumped out to an early 21-6 1st quarter lead before holding off a furious rally by the River Dell Golden Hawks(8-1) in the 2nd half to win 35-27. Junior quarterback Tom Jaten filling in for starter Keith Woetzel, completed 10 of 18 passes for 205 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

“Going into the first start was nerve wracking but I just trusted the line and coaches,” said Tom Jaten. “It’s kind of easy being the quarterback when you have the best running back(Joe O’Hagan) in the state” On the 58 yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter, “I saw a hole, hit it hard and didn’t want to get caught”

Not even 50 seconds into the 1st quarter, Jaten’s 9 yard QB sneak gave the Raiders the early lead. River Dell responded on their first possession as Senior quarterback Dylan Connolly ripped off a 50 yard run. On a 3rd and 7 at the Ramapo 10-yard line, Connolly fired a TD pass to Aiden Murrell but the extra-point attempt was blocked as Ramapo led 7-6.

The Raiders did not waste any time extending their lead as Jaten hit Senior wide receiver Greg Latuscko in stride for a 65-yard score making it 14-6 with 7:05 left in the 1st quarter. After a bad handoff exchange on River Dell’s next possession that Senior linebacker Ryan Curtiss recovered, Jalen connected with Junior wide receiver Dan Diaz on a 23-yard touchdown on 4th and 4 widening the margin to 21-6 with 5:45 left in the 1st quarter. Back came the Hawks as Connolly hooked up with Senior Matt Coppola on a 40-yard pass. On a 2nd and 10 at the Raiders 15, Connolly pitched the ball to Junior running back Alex Lanza bursting down the right sideline into the end zone narrowing Ramapo’s lead to 21-13.

“We’re fortunate to have Tom on our team and we knew all year long he could do a great job” said Ramapo Raiders Head Coach Drew Gibbs. “He not only did a great job with his arm but late in the game with his legs” added Gibbs. “A very good player who is sitting behind a Division I player(Keith Woetzel)” “River Dell has a tremendous offense with a triple-option that gives you fits but I am just happy with the way our guys performed”

The Raiders answered back on their following possession catching a break on a 3rd and 2 pass from Jaten from the 28-yard line as the ball was deflected by River Dell Senior defensive lineman Kobe Burke into the hands of Brendan Brown for a 20-yard gain. On 1st and goal from the Hawks 3, O’Hagan powered through the hole for his 13th touchdown of the season making it 28-13.

River Dell started the moving the ball up the field on its next possession but another bad snap allowed Curtiss to make his 2nd fumble recovery of the game. With 7:19 left in the 2nd quarter, Hawks Head Coach D.J. Nimphius made a big gamble going for it on a 4th and 7 from the River Dell 19 but Senior running back Charlie Connell was stuffed at the line of the scrimmage, However, Junior defensive back Nick Sirico picked off Jaten in the end zone. River Dell had one last scoring opportunity before the end of the 1st half. Connolly gained 28 yards on a 4th and 8 from the Ramapo 48. On a 2nd and 8 at the Raiders 18, Junior defensive back Dan Diaz intercepted a Connolly pass in the end zone.

“They’re clearly better and outplayed us tonight” said River Dell Head Coach D.J. Nimphius. “We have to get better and their best player didn’t even play,” added Nimphius. “We have a long way to go and better figure it out fast”

Nimphius decided to put in the reserves in the 2nd half and that paid off in the 4th quarter as Junior Ryan Purcell busted out a 39-yard gain from the Ramapo 40. On 1st and goal Junior Mike Walker QB keeper sliced the Raiders lead down to 28-19 with 8:17 left but the PAT attempt fell short. Once again, Jaten had a response bursting through the hole and down the Raiders sideline for a 58-yard touchdown putting Ramapo up 35-19 with 6:49 remaining in the 4th quarter. The Hawks did not go away quietly returning the ensuing kickoff to their own 44-yard line. On a 1st and 10 at the Raiders 31, Purcell launched a 31-yard strike to Mike Walker and Justin Park 2-point conversion run trimmed the margin down to 35-27 with 4:47 left.

“”It’s tough and pretty unfortunate as we wanted to give our best effort in the 1st half” said Dylan Connolly. “We came into the game prepared offensively and defensively but they were exploit our weaknesses,” added Connolly. “They took advantage of what we were giving them” On the backups play, “They’re part of our team, they watch film like us and we’re one big unit putting our best foot forward” Connolly rushed the ball 10 times for 129 yards.

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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