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River Dell knocks off undefeated Paramus in North 1, Group 3 Sectional Semifinals

River Dell Golden Hawks Head Coach DJ Nimphius said the team played poorly the last time they faced off against Paramus. “They are a really good team and put us on our heels and took it to us and we didn’t put our best foot forward. Two weeks of good practices leading to the PV (Pascack Valley) game. We took stock in what we were not doing as coaches and playing, approaching things and doing it off the field.”

The Golden Hawks started out with a flourish despite torrential downpours and gusty winds at George W. Hodgins Stadium (Paramus High School. Bolstered by a 57-yard pass from quarterback Jack Gillies to running back Dave Fletcher that set up first and goal at the Spartans three-yard line. On third and goal at the two, Gillies rolled out of the pocket and found Jack Racine in the back corner of the end zone with 7:33 on the clock.

Facing a stout Paramus squad that was averaging 42.5 points per game along with quarterback Trevor Bopp compiling 1,119 yards on the ground and 18 touchdowns and running back Kyle Jacob 1,165 yards and 17 touchdowns, River Dell’s defense kept both players out of the end zone in the first quarter.

In the second quarter Paramus finally caught a break with Steven Prado intercepting a pass by Gillies. Bopp managed to drive the team down the field, completing a key fourth down pass to Brandon Dell/Colle. A seven-yard run by Jacob moved the ball down to the Golden Hawks four-yard line but a false start penalty pushed the Spartans back to the seven. Facing a fourth down and seven, Bopp completed a pass to Prado but River Dell’s Mike Sirico stopped Steven Prado short of the first down marker.

“We did a nice job preparing, the scout team and Eric Morgan our defensive coordinator a former captain at River Dell from the late 90’s, a bright guys and prepared well and it showed tonight,” said Nimphius.

Clinging to a 7-0 advantage going into the 2nd half, the Golden Hawks came up with another huge defensive stop on the Spartans opening drive as Racine broke up a Bopp pass on fourth and six at the Paramus 44. However the Spartans defense returned the favor as Sean Marrazzo picked off Gillies at the Golden Hawks 30-yard line. Just when it looked as though the Spartans would put some points on the board, Dave Fletcher intercepted a Bopp pass in the end zone.

With Mike Sirico in at quarterback, the offense woke up as Sirico completed passes of 19 yards to Racine and 18 yards to Fletcher. On first & ten at the Spartans 27, Sirico completed a pass to Racine in the right flat and Racine took care of the rest displaying dogged determination barreling through a host of the defenders eventually reaching past the right pylon for the score with 3:27 left.

“We went up 7-0 at half but a one possession game and anyone’s game,” said Fletcher. “We told ourselves going in it’s a tied game and play like it’s 0-0.”

Gambling once again on the ensuing offensive series, Paramus Head Coach Sabella decided to go for it on fourth & three from the Spartans 42 but the Golden Hawks defense hunkered down again forcing Bopp into an incomplete pass. Fed the ball, Fletcher carved out runs of 12, 25 and 6 setting up first and goal at the two-yard line. Denied the first two times from scoring, Fletcher would not be denied a third time punching it in with 11:21 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“They’re a good team, pretty physical and we came out and did what we had to do,” Fletcher said. “It’s hard to defend our guys, hard-nosed players and love playing football. The offensive line gave us the push we needed and I saw the hole right there.”

The River Dell defense proved to be relentless on this night forcing Bopp into committing another a turnover as Mike Sirico swooped in for a pick. Starting out at the 29-yard line, Fletcher provided the dagger taking the hand off and bursting through the line and down the right sidelines untouched 71-yards to the end zone completing a spectacular night on the ground rushing 17 times for 157 yards.

Paramus (10-1) avoided the shutout with 2:48 left as Bopp connected on a 34-yard touchdown pass to Prado. However, the Golden Hawks limited Bopp to 11 for 21 and 146 yards while holding Jacob to 14 carries for 67 yards including just a single yard in the second quarter.

With the victory, River Dell (8-2) ended the Spartans undefeated season, reclaimed the Battle of Midland Avenue trophy and advanced to their sixth straight sectional title game where they will face the winner of Sparta vs. Ramapo and opportunity to three-peat as North 1, Group 3 sectional champions.

“It’s huge for us, came in knowing it was a revenge game for us and got it at right away,” said Fletcher. “We’re neighbor towns, a rivalry game and everyone excited to play this game. We know it’s a long journey, done it the last two years and everyone wants to do it again and put our best foot forward. We had to get our confidence back because the last game against Paramus brought us down; low on ourselves because we didn’t play the way we wanted to. Watching them raise the trophy last time on our field hurt us but to do it on their field even better.”

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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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