Connect with us

High School Sports

River Dell captures first state title since 2007

River Dell 26, Old Tappan 20

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)


2009, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The River Dell Golden Hawks had experienced disappointment and loss either in the state semifinals or championships those seasons. Head Coach D.J. Nimphius said everyone that interviewed him leading up to this week asked him what it feels like losing in three in a row.

The Golden Hawks (10-2) ended the dubious streak and talk thanks to the heroics of Alec Lanza scoring his second touchdown in overtime, a three-yard run. It was River Dell’s defense that sealed the 26-20 North 1, Group 3 Final victory forcing Old Tappan (9-3) running back James short of the first down marker on 4th & 2 at the 17-yard line setting off a jubilant celebration at midfield.

“I think the thing that no one will ever believe is the touchdown in overtime Alec Lanza called the play and said what the heck and saw something and did it,” Nimphius said. “I’m really happy for these group of guys, coaches and community that has been waiting for this. We graduated 19 starters last year.”

“We have been in the semi’s or finals last 10 years and don’t get credit for the program we are and don’t have the impressive looking kid but these guys work and so proud to coach them,” he continued. “For a team (Old Tappan) that ran the ball up and down on us and a big stop in a big moment and needed to make one and we did.”

With the game tied at 13-13 in the third quarter, Golden Knights Sal DeBendetto provided a highlight-reel moment returning a punt giving Old Tappan a 20-13 lead with 4:51 left. River Dell answered back as quarterback Dave Estevez completed a 54-yard pass to Tyerl Mellaci. On 3rd and goal from the four-yard line, Lanza took the handoff and barreled down the left sideline crossing just inside the left pylon evening the game at 20-20.

“Coming in as a freshman we lost all three years and weren’t going to lose and leaving without a win and fight to the very last second we did,” said Alec Lanza. “Our coach told us you can’t be tired, not playing for next week and this is it, you’re seniors and are done. You got to play as hard as you can until the final buzzer.”

“We haven’t won in years and came here nothing on our minds than to win and didn’t care about who scores and but to get the W. Going back three years in a row with a loss is the worst feeling in the world and coming home tonight is awesome.”

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)

Receiving the opening kickoff, River Dell kept the ball on the ground with Estevez and Lanza carrying the load. Facing a 3rd and 6 at the 9-yard line, Estevez rolled out and tossed a pass to Nick Sirico in the right corner of the end zone. The extra point kick failed as the Golden Hawks held a 6-0 lead with 9:13 left.

A few minutes later River Dell would get the ball back and march down the field to the Old Tappan 29 but on a pass from Estevez to Matt Monaghan would result in a turnover with Monaghan coughing up the ball. The Golden Knights seized upon the opportunity driving the length of the field combining running and passing. On 2nd and goal at the 4, running back Marquez Anntinori blasted through a hole in the line for the score putting Old Tappan ahead 7-6. Antinori had a superb game rushing 37 times for 201 yards.

River Dell did not waste any time responding on their ensuing possession with Estevez completing a 45-yard pass to Mike Walker. On 2nd and 6 at the Old Tappan 15-yard line, Estevez found a space in between the line and scampered into the end zone for the score as the Golden Hawks regained the lead 13-7. Estevez had a spectacular day on the ground and through the air rushing 23 times for 115 yards while completing 17 for 29 passes and 245 yards. The back and forth scoring continued with Golden Knights quarterback Jack Bilali orchestrating an 11-play 75-yard 4:04 drive capped off by a 16-yard touchdown run tying the game at 13-13.

“Dave Estevez is the best football player I have ever coached and told people that he is ultra-competitive and takes the game to another level and wants to win,” said Nimphius.

“We played four quarters of hard football against a great team and gathered all our energy and gutted it out,” said Estevez. “In the beginning of the season we lost a lot of starters and people doubted us. We are speechless and going to have fun enjoying this win but in a couple of months have to get back to winter workouts and come out for another one.”

The following two tabs change content below.

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.
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

More in High School Sports