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Ramapo holds off Newark West Side for 24th straight victory

Ramapo High School (11-0) senior running back, Jake Tirone, said there is a team slogan,  “Toughness and Finish.” This was a face off against a very physical and talented opponent in West Side (9-2).  Ramapo hosted on Friday night and the Raiders wasted no time pushing the pace from the onset.

On the opening drive, Ramapo marched 11 plays in 61 yards, chewing up three and half minutes of the clock capped off by a two-yard touchdown run from Tirone. With less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter, junior quarterback, Charles DePrima, rolled out of the pocket and fired a 41-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver, Sean Clapp.

Eighteen seconds later, the game changed in an instant. The Roughriders running back, Al-Hakka Campbell, returned the kickoff 96 yards. The fast and furious action continued with 22 seconds left as DePrima took the direct snap and rumbled 48 yards down the middle of the field for the score.

“We always have faith in the defense but we knew early offensively the possibility of a shootout so we’re always prepared to put up points on the board,” said Charles DePrima. “We like to keep the tempo up and score early and never know how a team is going to respond to that and credit to West Side they answered back and were tough.”

In the second quarter, West Side faced a fourth and 15 at the Ramapo 42-yard line. Instead of punting the ball, West Side pulled off the fake, with running back, Jahmir Dooley, motoring 36 yards on the run. Nafis Matthews, the team’s running back,  plowed through the line for the touchdown on the very next play. The team’s quarterback, Devion Sheppard, lofted a pass to wide receiver, Dashawn Lawton, to go for the two point conversion. With nine minutes left, the score was 21-14.

The Roughriders kept the momentum with the defense by forcing a quick three and out, followed by a short punt of 17 yards.  West Side gained outstanding field position at midfield. Five plays later, Sheppard barreled ahead on the two-yard quarterback keeper with less than six minutes to go. However, the two-point conversion failed as Ramapo held on to the 21-20 advantage.

With less than two minutes remaining, the Raiders defense came up with a big play as Tirone picked off Sheppard at the West Side 38-yard line. Despite losing yardage on a holding penalty and negative yards on a run, DePrima kept his cool under pressure. On a fourth and seven at the 35 yard line, DePrima took a snap and sprinted 35 yards to the end zone.

“All year we have been making plays before the have and great to have that extra lead right before halftime,” DePrima said. “I give credit to the offensive line for blocking amazingly and West Side was blitzing all the time.”

Jake Tirone on the message at intermission, “I told the team at halftime, we hit back and all year have been doing that. This group is really battled tested and great leaders on the team and chemistry and keep responding.”

Receiving the second half kickoff, the Roughriders wasted no time swiftly moving the ball down the field inside the Ramapo 10-yard line. Catching a break on a fumble that pushed the ball back to the 18, West Side went for it on fourth down. However, the Raiders defense held with Tirone, leaping into the air for the pick in the end zone. The Ramapo defense continued to excel with junior linebacker, Ryan Macke, recovering a fumble and senior linebacker, Nick Caporuscio, stopping Dooley short of first down on a fourth and two at the Roughriders 42-yard line.

Facing another fourth down situation at the 35-yard line, DePrima found his favorite target in Sean Clapp for a 25-yard pass. On second and goal at nine, Tirone powered his way through the line for the score with 39 seconds remaining.

“That has been our 1-2 punch and those guys just came up big for us in so many different occasions,” Gibbs said. “One was a big fourth down run for Charles and big fourth down pass. Sean Clapp had a big game as well with Max (Kucharski) hurt and Shane Campbell stepped up and did a great job offensively for us.”

The comfortable 35-20 lead did not last long for the Raiders with Sheppard engineering a 10-play 60-yard drive early in the fourth quarter. The play consumed over four minutes of the clock, ending with Sheppard hitting Lawton in stride down the middle of the seam for a 30-yard touchdown. Looking to make it a one possession game, the two-point conversion pass failed.

Appearing primed to answer back with a score, the Ramapo offense had the ball at the West Side 26 yard line. A dead ball personal foul interrupted those plans, forcing a punt. Junior, John Skead, knew what to do, hitting a 32-yard pass that pinned the Roughriders inside their 10-yard line. Gambling for it on fourth down, Sheppard heaved a pass down the field, but Tirone stepped up and knocked the pass down.

Backed up due to a holding penalty did not deter the Raiders offense and Tirone from scoring his third touchdown of the game smashing through the a host of defenders with four and half minutes remaining. Sheppard made sure West Side did not throw in the towel bursting through the line on the ensuing offensive possession for a 55-yard rushing score and completing a two-point conversion pass to make it 42-34.

Getting the ball back with about three and half minutes left, the Ramapo needed just five plays to answer back with DePrima scoring his third rushing touchdown of the night sprinting 45 yards down the left sidelines. Just when the coast was clear, the Roughriders made it interesting again in three plays with Sheppard throwing his second touchdown pass of the contest, a 25-yarder to Yasin Clarke with 27 seconds remaining. Going for the two-point conversion the pass attempt failed as the Raiders ended up winning the game 49-40, extending their undefeated streak to 24 games and advancing to the North 1, Group 3 sectional final next Friday where they will take on Pascack Valley at home with kickoff at 6:30 p.m. and opportunity to win back-to-back sectional titles.

DePrima ended up carrying the ball 16 times for 182 yards while completing 10 of 18 passes for 125 yards. Tirone gained 89 yards on 23 carries. For West Side Sheppard completed 17 of 22 passes for 160 yards and totaled 93 yards on the ground. Nafias Matthews rushed for 98 yards on 12 carries.

Head Coach Drew Gibbs on the win, “Tremendous respect for that West Side team, this could have been the bowl game at MetLife (Stadium) and they have a tremendous group of athletes and do a lot of things well and we had our hands full tonight. When you give up 40 points, it’s hard to say you played well defensively but we played well at times and made a lot of big plays on defense. We need to work on our poise and composure and too many penalties for us the last couple of weeks and if we are to win a bowl game have to eliminate that.”

“A back-up corner Matt Hoey stepped up against one of the best passing teams and played great and really proud of him. A senior that has not played much until tonight. Last week Sam Bosa out with a concussion, Tristan Pernetti a junior stepped in at center and had to shuffle it a little bit with Josh D’Avanzo our normal center shifting to right tackle and out right tackle Miles Shifar moving to right guard but they are all experienced and just tremendously dedicated, players working so hard and opened up the ground game for us.”

“It’s special for our players, so committed and dedicated and work so hard at this and such a huge part of their lives and so happy they get to experience this. Playing for a sectional title is special and this is a special group of seniors and this will be the third year in a row they have played for a sectional title and very happy and proud of the way they stepped up after an outstanding senior class this year and they have been able to step up and make it happen for themselves and make their mark.”

Jake Tirone on the victory, “It was a really good team win, they are a really good team and we’re gang tackling and a lot of athletes on the field. We did a good job covering and (offensive) line opened up holes. Players stepped up on third and fourth downs and made plays. We kept grinding and knew these guys would not go away and keep coming. Charles (DePrima) is an incredible player and we’re a very dangerous duo and just a complete playmaker and defenses can’t stop him.”

“PV (Pascack Valley) is a good team and we’re going to be ready to go. Our seniors last home field game and it’s really special to us. At Ramapo we have a legacy and we’re just trying to make our mark and do our thing. Coach Gibbs is a great coach, I look up to him, a great role model and puts us in the right position always. He has us prepared mentally and physically. It’s really special doing what we do and trying to get to 26-0 and win that bowl game.”

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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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