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River Dell quarterback Dave Estevez: A leader on and off the gridiron

Despite the River Dell Golden Hawks 11-game winning streak being snapped last week at home against Ramapo, senior quarterback Dave Estevez refused to throw in the towel in the second half. Behind his leadership Estevez was responsible for two scores including a 30-yard touchdown pass to Holden Brodersen as the team got to within three points before the Raiders ran the clock out in the end for the win. Estevez drew high praise after the game from Ramapo Head Coach Drew Gibbs.

“Estevez is the real deal and as good as a high school competitor I have coached against in 17 years,” said Gibbs.

This season, Estevez has been mentioned as an Offensive Player of the Year candidate in Bergen County. He has already thrown for nearly 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for almost 800 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Learning under the direction of Dylan Connolly for two years prepared Estevez to take over the reign at quarterback.

“Dylan Connolly, a great leader and someone who I followed in the locker room,” said Estevez.

However, those plans were derailed two weeks before the start of the 2016 season as Estevez underwent surgery and was sidelined for the first two games.

“I got hurt two weeks before the season started and very unexpected but didn’t hang my hat and as captain of the team I didn’t want to let the team down,” he said. “Coming back was tough and not in the best shape and 100 percent healthy but the team had my back. By week seven or eight I got back into the groove and felt myself’

Filling in for Estevez was senior Ryan Purcillo, who Estevez says didn’t get a lot of minutes but stepped up and won a big game in the opener at Pascack Valley.

“He never complained about anything, stayed with the team and helped out,” said Estevez.

Once Esteves returned to action, River Dell finished the season on a five game winning streak. Having lost to Ramapo 45-15 in the 2015 North 1 Group 3 sectional final at Met Life Stadium and 42-33 early in the 2016 regular season, Esteves and the rest of the Golden Hawks squad got another shot for redemption against Ramapo in the semifinals of the state playoffs and did not disappoint. Estevez accounted for three scores in the 35-21 victory.

“Defeating Ramapo was a great feeling and against a great team full of tradition,” he explained.

River Dell advanced to the North 1 Group 3 sectional final at Met Life for the third consecutive year. This time facing off against Northern Valley Old Tappan, the game went into overtime where the Golden Hawks defense came up with a big stop on fourth down as River Dell captured their first state title since 2007.

“We felt like we were going to be the ones to bring it home and never an easy game in the playoffs,” Estevez recalled. “I will cherish it for the rest of my life. After the game I received a bunch of text messages from random phone numbers, past players and family on the win and a great feeling. Great to represent my community and see how all my hard work paid off.”

The one person Estevez attribute to the success of the River Dell Golden Hawks football program is head coach DJ Nimphius.

“He must be something like 103-20 and come a long way and hung around and developed players. River Dell may not be the biggest team or most athletic but plays to the maximum potential and goes out and there and wins ball games.”

“A great mentor for us and as a team and me. Helped and supported me and you can’t for anymore. Taught me a lot about football and school and great at developing quarterbacks and finding smart players.”

Even after winning a state championship there was no rest for Estevez playing basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring.

“Playing all sports makes me a better athlete,” he explained. “We may have not been the best basketball team and undersized but made it to the sectional finals where we lost to Teaneck and in baseball fourth in the county and lost to Bergen Catholic.”

With support from his parents, who Estevez says means to the world to him, stayed by his side and purchased all the equipment necessary and couldn’t ask for more. In addition, his three brothers’ Christian, Brian and Anthony, who all played college baseball, made him such a great competitor.

You can trace it back to third grade Estevez says where he found his passion for football and friends’ encouraged him to play the sport. In the summer, Estevez is not just kicking back and relaxing but volunteering his time with kids.

“In the summer, I run basketball and baseball camps plus I coach a 12U football team in the spring. A great honor for younger kids to look up to you as an athlete and always trying to be a part of the community and a role model.”

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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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