River Dell Golden Hawks Varsity Football team runs past Demarest in the 2022 regular-season home opener
After three consecutive away games to start the 2022 regular season, the River Dell Golden Hawks varsity football team finally got the opportunity to play a home game at River Dell High School.
The Golden Hawks were coming off a punishing 34-7 loss to Westwood the week before at Westwood Regional High School. River Dell was looking to right the ship facing off against Demarest. Despite a 1-2 record, the Norsemen scored 117 points during that stretch.
River Dell senior quarterback Jake Sconza on the atmosphere after the defeat to Westwood and anticipation for the home opener, "We were definitely upset all week about the Westwood loss and wanted to come out with fire and needed the W."
"It was the home opener, and we wanted to make sure we go out there and play our best game." "There were no breaks during practice, guys out there in hot weather and we didn't want to lose this game." "We knew it was one of the biggest to get us back towards the .500 mark" I was excited about our first home opener, and with some of the seniors, their first home opener starts.
Senior defensive back Vin Doonheim on the home opener and playing with his brother Phil, "It's cool, we've grown up playing together and it's awesome and have family watch us." "You walk down the hill with all the fans out there."
On the first full autumn day, the sun shone brightly as the team ran onto the field before kickoff, with hardly a cloud in the sky and cool and crisp temperatures.
The student section, families, and fans filled up the bleachers. People were also standing behind the fence to watch the game.
In the first quarter, the Golden Hawks defense set an early tone with Vin Doornheim swooping in front of a Demarest wide receiver for the interception and returning the ball deep into Norsemen territory.
"It was good to get an opening drive turnover and we played great defense in the secondary," Vin Doornheim explained. "I saw the ball and got to it on the deep pass."
However, the game's first offensive possession would result in a turnover on downs for River Dell. Demarest wasted no time taking advantage of the opportunity, cranking out a six-play 68-yard drive that culminated in a 20-yard touchdown run from running back Chris Short.
On the ensuing Golden Hawks kickoff return, sophomore Chris Kelm blazed through a sea of players to the 41-yard line. Immediately, quarterback Jake Sconza had sufficient time in the pocket to complete a spectacular 37-yard pass to senior wide receiver Max Froonjian advancing the ball into the red zone.
Facing a third down at the Norsemen's eight-yard line, Sconza lined up in shotgun formation, took the snap, unable to find any open receivers scampered towards the right sidelines scooting just inside the right pylon for the score with 4:36 left.
Late in the quarter, River Dell had an excellent starting field position at their 46-yard line. The offensive line jelling week by week paved the way for the running game as Jake Sconza and senior running back Andrew Spano pounded the rock on the ground. Sconza also completed several passes to advance the ball inside the 20-yard line.
"The offensive line had its best week of practice, they were all locked in and ready to go," Jake Sconza described. "They were blocking on every single play, playing their hardest and opening those running lanes for me and Andrew."
Early in the second quarter, Jake Sconza lined up again in shotgun formation, took the snap, and rolled out to his left. Once again unable to find an open receiver, Jake Sconza rumbled downfield, ducking and weaving and fighting off the defense as he stretched the ball across the plain of the goal line for the touchdown.
Demarest answered back, following an exact blueprint of the Golden Hawks' offense. Quarterback Dan Argenziano and Chris Short picked up significant chunks of yardage on the ground. On first and ten at the River Dell 39, Short took the handoff from Dan Argenziano and exploded through the line 39 yards to the end zone. The game tied at 14-14 with less than seven minutes remaining.
Field position continued to be a significant advantage for the Golden Hawks. Chris Kelm proved to be the difference maker returning the kickoff to the 46-yard line. Unfortunately, the drive would end in Norsemen Liam Zelman picking off a Jake Sconza pass.
All would not be lost as the River Dell defense forced a quick three and out. A short punt resulted in the Golden Hawks' offense starting at the Demarest 41-yard line. Jake Sconza completed several passes that moved the ball back into the red zone.
On third and four at the nine-yard line, running back Andrew Spano took the handoff from Jake Sconza and plowed his way into the end zone for the score putting River Dell back in front 21-14.
The Norsemen had an opportunity to tie the game up before the first half. Sadly, the game's complexion swung entirely, with quarterback Dan Argenziano sustaining a gruesome ankle injury that knocked him out for the rest of the game. Demarest attempted a field goal with time winding down, but a botched snap ended with no points and the Golden Hawks up at halftime.
Once the third quarter commenced, River Dell had the first offensive possession. Chris Kelm was putting on a show in the kickoff returns as he sprinted to the Golden Hawks' 49-yard line.
Jake Sconza utilized his arm and legs in the first two plays, completing a 19-yard pass and bursting through the line for a ten-yard gain. At the Norsemen's 14-yard line, running back Andrew Spano took the handoff from Jake Sconza and surged straightforwardly through the line as Spano darted into the end zone with ten and half minutes left.
"We needed that touchdown, had a great drive going, and finish it off, "Jake Sconza noted. "All the credit goes to the offensive line for making great blocks and going out there and putting their best every single play." Seeing them firing out every play and Andrew running through and scoring was great.
River Dell's special teams contributed immensely on the ensuing Demarest kickoff return forcing a fumble with senior Elias Bekdas recovering the ball at the Norsemen' 33-yard line.
"It was a huge momentum shift in the game," Elias Bekdas stated. "The kickoff team did a great job all night, and we knew we were going to come away with the ball." Coach(Nimphius) always wants a team picture at the ball and 11 hats on every tackle, which ultimately forced the fumble.
On second and seven at the 30-yard line, Jake Sconza flashed that quick strike ability and gunslinger's arm. Dropping back in the pocket in shotgun formation, Jake Sconza kept his balance after knocking into a couple of players and rolling out to his right before hurling a strike to wide receiver Max Froonjian in the end zone.
"It was a designed play for Max at first, a little run through and I ran into my center and thought it was going to be a butt fumble," Jake Sconza cited. "I run into Tamas(Kellerman) and three guys around me and I escaped and ducked under all three of them and I found Max wide open in the back of the end zone."
Demarest refused to away quietly on the following offensive series. Chris Short took a handoff and broke into the clear for an 86-yard touchdown. On the extra point attempt kick, Elias Bekdas accelerated through the line and blocked the kick.
Early in the fourth quarter, Max Froonjian electrified the home crowd on a punt return and provided the dagger. Fielding the ball a couple of yards behind the midfield stripe on the bounce, Froonjian darted and weaved through a maze of players before zooming down the left sidelines into the end zone that cemented a Golden Hawks 42-20 victory.
Jake Sconza completed 9 15 passes for 151 yards and carried the ball 12 times for 92 yards. Andrew Spano totaled 126 rushing yards on 20 carries.
Elias Bekdas on the win over Demarest, "We all worked very hard after the tough loss to Westwood and the whole team played great." "We knew he had to have a statement game after last week and the team was locked in and ready to go from the jump."
"We have a lot of young guys contributing and knew it would take a few games to get it going and build that chemistry." "We're close-knit group in general and I couldn't imagine a better group of guys to go into battle every week and so thankful for every one of these boys."
"I was happy to do my part in front of our great towns, the student section was engaged all night long and it contributed hugely to the environment." "The atmosphere was electric and Friday Night Lights in front of your hometown is something that never gets old."
River Dell returns to action on Friday, September 30th facing off against undefeated Old Tappan(4-0) with kickoff set for 6 p.m. at River Dell High School. The Golden Knights are a juggernaut this season, amassing 141 points while yielding just six points and posting three shutouts.
"It's a big match-up, we haven't played since Met Life(Stadium) but we're going to have to play a perfect game," Vin Doornheim said. "They really haven't been challenged in their last three games and we just got to keep it close and see what happens at the end."