River Dell Golden Hawks Freshman Football Team rolls to shutout win over Bergenfield


The River Dell Golden Hawks Freshman Football Team returned to action five days after rallying to defeat Parsippany Hills 26-20 in the 2022 regular-season and home opener at River Dell High School.

"It was a short week of preparation, our kids had off on Monday which is an unusual week for us not just because of the holiday but also we tried to follow the varsity schedule as best as possible," River Dell Head Mike Aliano explained. "We just tried to perfect some of the things that we do, and the team is starting to click a little better overall and playing better as a group."

River Dell hosted Bergenfield on an overcast day at River Dell High School. Despite the gloomy weather, the Golden Hawks wasted no time jumping to an early lead in the first quarter.

Freshman quarterback Zion Yoon engineered an impressive 11-play, 62-yard drive that culminated in running back Tyler Datz plowing through the line for a two-yard touchdown.

Going for the two-point conversion, Zion Yoon took the snap in shotgun formation, rolled out to his right, and fired a pass to Jayden Thomas in the right corner of the end zone, increasing the score to 8-0.

"We've been trying to perfect certain things that we do, and our offensive line is starting to come together and pick things up," Head Coach Mike Aliano explained. "It's the small opportunities that we get and we're looking for a lot of output and input from the group upfront."

On the Bears' first possession of the game, they advanced the ball to midfield. On a fourth down and short play, the River Dell defense bottled up the gaps on a running play forcing a turnover on downs.

Cain Lanza continued to be prolific on the ground in the second quarter, ripping off a 38-yard run that moved the ball deep inside Bergenfield territory. Just when it seemed the offense was on the verge of scoring again, a couple of minus running plays resulted in the drive fizzling out.

The Golden Hawks defense drew a line in the sand with the Bergenfield offense driving into River Dell territory. An errant snap on a reverse running play led to a fumble and Dean Marucci scooping up the ball and rumbling to the end zone for the touchdown.

Initially lined up for the extra point kick attempt, a low snap forced placeholder Zion Yoon to gather the ball and take off for the end zone. Yoon managed to sidestep a Bergenfield defensive player, tiptoe along the right sidelines and step inside the end pylon for the two-point conversion extending the advantage to 16-0.

"Our defense has really stepped up big this year, they struggled last week but it's only our second game," Head Coach Mike Aliano noted. "A lot of these kids have never played before, at least 60 percent of them and first year putting the pads on and starting to get it." "We don't really have a lot of freshmen, so we need the sophomores plugging the holes and giving people rests."

The River Dell defense once again wreaked havoc in the third quarter. A massive hit by Will Vesey dislodged the ball out of a Bears running back and led to Dean Marucci recovering his second fumble of the game.

Forging ahead deep into Bergenfield territory, the Golden Hawks were on the cusp of punching the ball into the end zone, but a turnover gave the ball back to the Bears.

However, all would not be lost as the River Dell defense pass rush brought the heat with Yewen Zhao and Jayden Thomas combining to sack the Bergenfield quarterback in the end zone for safety.

The Golden Hawks' offense got the ball back as the Bears had to kick the ball away after the safety. Ashton Pastore took over the quarterback duties. River Dell pounded the rock on the ground picking up huge chunks of yardage.

Once inside the red zone, Pastore took the snap, faked the handoff, and barreled straight ahead for a 14-yard touchdown. Employing a unique formation on the conversion attempt, Zion Yoon lobbed a two-conversion pass to a wide-open Cain Lanza in the end zone upping the margin to 26-0.

"Ashton(Pastore) is a good leader and he's got a lot of stuff to work on and young," Head Coach Mike Aliano stated. "He's starting to piece things together and take that leadership role and trying to get the younger kids under his wing."

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Dean Marucci had made it a trifecta when it had come to recovering fumbles. The Golden Hawks' offense with excellent starting field position deep in Bergenfield territory.

"The freshman class is coming together as a team," Dean Marucci described. "They had their struggles this summer but coming into this year they're slowly starting to figure it out."

Jayden Thomas utilized a punishing running style, gaining 23 yards to set up a first and goal at the Bears' one-yard line. Thomas capped it off, plunging in for the score on the next play. This time around, River Dell attempted an extra point kick with Andrew Piccinich drilling the kick straight through the uprights. The Golden Hawks rolled to the 33-0 victory and 11th straight win in a row.

"The offensive line was blocking nicely and our wide receivers were getting open," Jayden Thomas said. "Our defense locked up and forced a lot of turnovers."

"Jayden's(Thomas) never played before and it's all new to him, "Head Coach Mike Aliano cited. "He's starting to understand the game a little better and situations and can be that physical type of player."

Head Coach Mike Aliano on the undefeated streak, "I've been on some very successful teams, freshman, JV, and varsity and reminded plenty of times." "From 2007 to 2011, every program all went undefeated." We're trying to get back up to that level because we have struggled with numbers and in general playing to our ability, and we know that we can be and others expect us to be."

Zion Yoon on the win over Bergenfield, "We headed into this game pretty confident even though we only had one day of practice." "The coaches wanted to get the ball to everyone, especially Jayden Thomas." Several people made plays, like Jayden Thomas, Dean Marucci, Tyler Datz, and Chris Dong.

"We had a complete shutout due to the defense and big plays from the defensive line." "Even after halftime, we kept going regardless of the score." Our team knew that Bergenfield wasn't the best team, but we had to focus on the next game.

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