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Ramapo snaps River Dell 11-game unbeaten streak

Ramapo and River Dell have become well accustomed to playing each other during the regular season and playoffs the past couple of years. Entering Friday night’s match-up at River Dell High School, the Golden Hawks were undefeated in their last 11 games and having knocked the Raiders out of the playoffs last season at Ramapo High School while Ramapo had won five in a row, so something had to give.

“This is a game we circle on the calendar every year and our goal and they are in our state bracket and a team we obviously want to beat,” said Ramapo Head Coach Drew Gibbs. “Unfortunately we have beaten them four years in a row in the regular season and they have beaten us two out three in the playoffs so we have our work cut out for us.”

After a 30-yard touchdown pass from River Dell quarterback Dave Estevez to wide receiver Holden Broadersen trimmed Ramapo’s lead to 16-13 early in the fourth quarter, the Raiders started out at their own 35 thanks to a short squib kick. Despite getting sacked for eight yards, quarterback AJ Wingfield regained his composure ripping off 21 yards on a QB keeper. On this night, it was an electrifying running tandem that proved to be the difference, Wingfield carrying the ball 18 times for 138 yards and running back Shane Brancaleone ran 15 times for 122 yards that carved up huge chunks of yardage on the drive.

Even with starting center Grant Cotugno breaking his right hand during the week and adjusting to snapping the ball with his left hand, the Raiders dominated the line of scrimmage piling up 293 yards on the ground. Brancaleone capped it off bursting through the line on 2nd & 3 at the River Dell 10 extending Ramapo’s lead to 23-13 with 7:59 remaining.

“My offensive line gave me a great home, hit and dove for the end zone,” said Brancaleone “When I found out he (Grant Cotugno) broke his hand I didn’t know if he would play and to see him on Thursday with the club and said wow that’s a tough kid and came out here and execute well and did everything we needed him to do. Always could trust the offensive line to make holes , pass and run block really well and few of the screens running behind them and pancaking people was awesome.”

“Shane has been a great player the last two years and runs his scheme very well and given them fits and has not runs less than for 100 yards. This is the team he gets the job against and very elusive and good at finishing holes and saw him pop a couple of big runs and moving the chains.”

Limited to 63 yards on the ground by a stout Raiders defensive front, Estevez made it up in the passing game throwing for 47 of his 190 yards on the Golden Hawks ensuing drive. Orchestrating a 9-play 64-yard drive that took 3:27 off the clock, Estevez plowed ahead for his second touchdown of the game, cutting the lead down to 23-20 with 4:21 left on the clock.

That would be the last time River Dell would see the football in the game as Wingfield gashed the Golden Hawks defense running for 21 yards on a 3rd and 7 at the Raiders 49 yard-line with 2:07 remaining. On the very next play Wingfield sprinting for 21 additional yards as Ramapo ran out the clock sealing the victory.

“We know they are a great team and going to take punches and just keep going and fighting,” said Wingfield. “Offensive and defensive line did a great job and special of getting us good field position. All year the offensive line has been dominating upfront and did that today and huge reason why we got the win. Shane(Brancaleone) is the best running back I have played with, makes plays and very hard to tackle. The fact we kept grinding, fought it out and proud of the team.”

“He (AJ Wingfield) is a special player, Dave Estevez on the other side and AJ proved tonight why he is a special payer in North Jersey,” Gibbs said. “He can run the ball, throw it and great to see the offensive line dominate at the end and put the drive and game away at that point like we needed to.”

“They’re a very good football team and play hard and well-coached. We didn’t want to give them the ball back because they’re tough with the ball in their hands and great on special teams. I wouldn’t have liked it to work out any better than keep the ball for 4:39 and to run the clock out like the way we did I was really impressed.”

“We love playing these guys and know it’s a battle and you know if you are beat River Dell you can feel real good about it because you beat a well coached team that is committed and has some real good players. Estevez is the real deal and as good as a high school competitor as I have coached against in 17 years.”


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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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