Second-half surge propels River Dell Golden Hawks freshman football team to win over Parsippany Hills in the 2022 regular-season opener

Last year the River Dell Golden Hawks freshman football team enjoyed a magical run by going undefeated (9-0).

Fast forward to 2022, a new crop of players ushered in, with most of the freshman last year now sophomores playing on either JV or Varsity.

Before the Golden Hawks, 2022 regular season & home opener vs. Parsippany Hills at River Dell High School, Head Coach Mike Aliano talked about this year's team.

"Our numbers are lower than last year, where we had the highest in a long time." "It's hard to replicate with last year's team, an exceptional group, and to see them playing on Friday nights. "This group is different, and many good kids keep returning to practice."

"We have a decent quarterback in Zion Yoon, he's stepping up to the plate and working with all the quarterbacks throughout the entire program and coming along pretty well." "We got pretty decent running backs, Cain Lanza, his brothers came through the program and really tough kids and good football players, and he's got to a lot to live up to based off who he is."

"Our kids are in at 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday and go home around 1:30." "Between practices and on the field meetings, even downtime the kids being around each other for chemistry." "There are expectations yearly just like every other program, and every team wants to win every game."

This year's schedule for River Dell presents a formidable challenger with back-to-back away games twice. September 24th at Demarest, followed by at Old Tappan on October 1st.The Golden Hawks wrap up the season at Pascack Valley on October 15th at Paramus on October 22nd.

"It's probably one of the toughest schedules we've had in a while," Head Mike Aliano noted. "We've dropped lesser opponents and tried to get tougher ones to help make us better." It will test us weekly, and there's no easy win or saying we can beat them.

Entering his 14th year at River Dell High School, Head Coach Mike Aliano points out the leadership from varsity football head coach DJ Nimphius and the rest of the coaching staff sticking together for a long time.

"Coach Nimphius does an excellent job, after a Friday night's game he's still up there on a Saturday morning watching the other freshman and looking in at what the players are doing and in terms of their performance on the field and it's all about structure." "He's been there 17 years and at one point we went to six straight sectional finals and we've had a lot of success and that helps with staying on board for so long."

"Coach Nimphius, Al Henion, Eric Morgan, and I have been together for the last 14 years." "I don't think you see that too often and have a core group of coaches for that long." That helps me stay on and be part of a team and camaraderie.

The support from the River Dell High School administration and the athletic department has played a pivotal role in the success of the athletics. Head Coach Mike Aliano mentioned a couple of key members.

"Our principal Brian Pepe, Jeff Principe, and Brandon Flanagan are fantastic, and they care a lot about our kids and not just the football kids." "They all played athletics in high school and know what it takes to be a student-athlete." School comes first, and obviously, athletics second.

"Denis Nelson, hands down the best athletic director that I've been around and he's the backbone of a lot of things." "Whether it's equipment or scheduling things and saying hello and he does a lot than more people think."

The final message Head Coach Mike Aliano was for his team as they prepared to take the field in their first game of the 2022 season. "You got to be able to give it 110% and play to the whistle and wanted to be a nasty person on the field." "They're all a bunch of great kids but when you step on that field it's a different story."

"When they step on that field, they got to feel proud of themselves to wear that gold helmet and River Dell jersey." "There's always high expectations with the program, it has been so successful, and they want to be the group to do this or not to do this."

"There's always high expectations when they come to River Dell because of the tone and message that's been set for so many years prior and it can be hard to live up to but I think as they season goes along they but into it at the end of the season and feel we can do this." "They feel and understand what it takes and why the coaches are so hard on us and they get it."

On a warm and sunny day at River Dell High School, the Golden Hawks got off to a rough start falling behind 20-6 at the end of the first half.

Trailing still by the same score in the fourth quarter, River Dell finally broke through to trim the Viking's advantage to 20-14. A successful onside kick resulted in the Golden Hawks scoring again to tie the game up.

The defense not only pitched a shutout in the second half but came up with a critical turnover as Jordan Mellaci intercepted a pass. That led River Dell to tally another score late in the quarter to emerge victorious.

Head Coach Mike Aliano on the 26-20 win over Parsippany Hills, "We kept our poise and fixed our mistakes in the first half." "Our defense stepped up, and it's always good to get out of the gate with a win." We had a lot of newcomers and new kids to the sport overall, and it's always good to get that first win under their belt and a promising start.

"It's always good to have Coach Nimphius and he was on the sidelines and talking to me and asking about the timeouts and good to have that extra ear and voice to walk you through things." "I've got coaches on the staff in Coach(Sammy)Halabi and Coach(John) Budka and bounce ideas off and what their opinions are and how they might handle certain situations."

Jordan Mellaci on the victory, "Nothing happens without our running back Cain Lanza; he had all four touchdowns and a big interception." "Zion Yoon played very well at safety and quarterback as well." Our defensive line was also excellent, and my interception would have never happened if those players hadn't stepped up beforehand and were crucial in our win.

Initially scheduled to play Bergenfield on Saturday, September 10th at River Dell High School at 9 a.m. has been moved up to Wednesday, September 7th at 4:15 p.m.

"Due to the holiday it's a quick turnaround and you don't have a lot of time to prepare but it' puts the opponent in the same boat," Head Coach Mike Aliano stated. "They(Bergenfield) don't have as many days to prepare and you're almost on an even playing circuit." We can't add too much and a couple of wrinkles here and there, and then move on and do the best you can.

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