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Jake Tirone 4 TDs lift Ramapo to 22nd straight win

Playing his final regular season in a Ramapo Raiders (9-0) uniform on Friday night at Randolph High School, senior running back Jake Tirone said afterwards with a long bus ride the team had to stay focused and not overlook Randolph (5-4). “A great football team and we had to come out and do what we do and take care of business” said Tirone.


Sticking to that attitude, the Raiders started to flourish by marching down the field on the opening possession of the game with Tirone capping off the drive.  He broke through the line for a 30-yard touchdown run on fourth and one. After the Ramapo defense forced a quick three and out, it was junior quarterback Charles DePrima that went to work, mixing up the pass and run effectively. They converted a fourth down and one at the 26-yard with a three-yard run. Three plays later Tirone found the end zone again with a two-yard plunge.


“We thought we could run the ball on them, we worked to come out run heavy, hit them in the mouth and the offensive line did a great job” Tirone said. “Last year was amazing but we said this year is ours and to keep it rolling. We just built that chemistry, worked really hard and leave it all out on the field”


Ramapo Head Coach Drew Gibbs on Jake Tirone, “JT had an outstanding night running the ball, a tremendous all-around football player and we’re really fortunate to have him on the team and real leader for us. He has been banged up a little bit but healthy past couple of weeks and hopefully can stay healthy through the playoff run”.


Just when the Raiders were in firm control, Randolph quarterback Matt Kleiven changed that in a heartbeat. On the ensuing series he connected on a 69-yard touchdown pass to running back Jimmy Pepe  to end the first quarter. After a holding penalty wiped out a big run, DePrima found Tirone on a screen pass and Tirone did the rest, sprinting 67 yards to the end zone.


“That was exciting, Charles is an amazing player, we’re really close and have good chemistry and that’s my guy” said Tirone. “He is fast, has a great arm and he got me the ball and I took off”.

Randolph responded with a lengthy drive, advancing the ball to the Ramapo 28. However, the Raiders defense came up with the key defensive play on a fourth down pass from Kleiven to running back Justin Townsend, stopping Townsend short of the first down marker. Utilizing his arm strength, DePrima launched a 61-yard pass to junior wide receiver Max Kucharski, pushing the ball inside the Rams five-yard line. Facing a third and goal situation at the six, DePrima finished off an impressive first half rolling out of the pocket and found junior wide receiver Sean Clapp in the back of the end zone.


Randolph refused to go away quietly in the second half with Townsend ripping off a 57-yard run to start the third quarter. On third and ten at the Raiders 23, Kleiven threaded the needle on a touchdown pass down the middle of the seam. Sensing the momentum shifting, the Ramapo offense upped the tempo with a hurry up style on the ground that enabled Tirone to gain 46 yards. Despite the drive stalling out, senior placekicker Aidan Labell drilled home a 30-yard field goal.


Towards the tail end of the third quarter, the Rams offense seemed primed to cut further into the deficit as cornerback Matt Kratochvil intercepted a DePrima pass and returned it to Raiders 46-yard line. Taking advantage of the short field, Kleiven hooked up on a 26-yard pass to wide receiver Justin Lawler. On a second and one at the 19, Kleiven heaved a pass into the end zone but Max Kucharski squashed the promising drive by leaping high into the air to snag the pick.


Looking to finish the game off on a strong note, the Ramapo offense strung together an 11-play 80-yard drive with 10 of the plays on the ground. Handing the ball on the last six plays of the drive, Tirone sealed a 38-22 Ramapo victory and extended the undefeated winning streak to 22 games. Tirone finished the game with 140 yards on 18 carries. DePrima completed 12 of 15 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 16 times for 78 yards. For Randolph, Kleiven completed 13 of 14 passes for 217 yards.


Jake Tirone on the win, “Last year we blew them out pretty well so we knew this year they would come out on fire and take their best shot. We talk about there is two seasons, a regular season and now what matters. That is great what we did and now it starts. Now we dial in and do what we need to do get a ring. Ramapo has a great legacy, Coach Gibbs is a great coach, a great feeling and glad to be part of it”.


Drew Gibbs on the victory, “I told the guys the first day of training camp, you have enough talent to win every game you play this year, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen and we had to ability to do that and a credit to this group the way they stepped up, practiced hard and continued to improve and make a lot of big plays when they had to and when you do that you find yourself at 9-0 and excited to start the playoff run as the top seed. The only way you win 22 in a row is win one at a time so we try to keep the boys and coaching staff focused on each and every week and that’s what enables you to get there”


“We have to clean things up, we came off two tough traditional opponents. Randolph had a great year last year and they have winning record this year and they came to play and made some plays on us. We knew they were a good team and would battle. A little bit disappointed with our tackles and needs to improve. Far too many but we were able to score and that was the difference. Big for us to convert on fourth down plays. Charles(DePrima) is not 100 percent yet, but getting there and certainly making progress. A tremendous dual-threat quarterback and he can do it both, pass and run it”


Next up for Ramapo is a first-round playoff match-up next Friday at Ramapo High School against Bergenfield with kick-off set for 6:30 p.m.


“Now it’s win or go home, the stakes ratchet up a little bit, Gibbs said. The goal was to get to the playoffs, we’re going to be the number one seed, play at home and now it’s time to go out and do it”

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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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