River Dell Golden Hawks Varsity Football Team dominates Paramus 37-7 to retain the Battle of Midland Ave Trophy
The River Dell Golden Hawks varsity football team was looking to rebound from a brutal loss to Pascack Valley the week before in the 'Rumble for the Rail' trophy game that dropped them below the .500 mark and a second trophy game defeat this season.
Sophomore linebacker Mason Nagle on the loss to Pascack Valley, "That was tough, and we didn't play our best game and weren't' on the same page."
River Dell faced much more pressure with the regular-season finale at River Dell High School. In the Battle of Midland Ave, the Golden Hawks were squaring off against another archrival in the Paramus Spartans. River Dell held an edge, winning the last two matchups between the two teams.
"Our main focus was to get the trophy back which also meant winning the game," senior linebacker Nick Sybel explained. "We wanted to that trophy home, especially because it's the guys from Paramus." They're right across the street, and it's a big rivalry, and that trophy means a lot to everyone in both communities.
"Throughout the day, it's like a timer and countdown to the game." "You're always thinking about as you watch the hours go by on the clock." "You get locked in once those meeting times are around three-thirty and four o'clock.
Most significant for the River Dell varsity football team was honoring the 22 seniors on the team before kickoff. Parents lined up with each player and took photographs as they walked through an arch of balloons underneath the field goalpost.
Nick Sybel on walking out with his brother Scott Sybel and their parents on Senior Night and build-up towards the game. "That was special, to walk out with your parents and brother for one game, one time in four years; you know what's coming." "It meant a lot to them, and they loved it.
On the pre-game ceremony, Mason Nagle honored the seniors, "The seniors took a really huge role on this team on and off the field." "Every day, they're giving their best effort, setting an example for younger kids on the team and us and expected in the program." That helped bring the team together.
On a splendid fall night with brisk temperatures and clear skies, the Golden Hawks came out with a sense of urgency and purpose, forcing the Paramus offense into a three-and-out on their first offensive series.
River Dell had an excellent starting field position on their first offensive possession at the Spartans' 47-yard line. On second and ten, quarterback Jake Sconza dropped back in the pocket and fired a pass to wide receiver Max Froonjian along the left sidelines.
Froonjian caught the pass, eluded one defensive back, cut back into the middle of the field, and back down the left side, outracing a bunch of Paramus defensive players into the end zone for the score.
With senior kicker Alejandro Carballeda sidelined with an injury, Can Tang took over the kicking duties and booted home the extra kick straight through the uprights, making it 7-0.
"We always have those two guys, one guy is down and other steps up," Nick Sybel noted. "John(Can) and Alejandro both practice equally the same and have very good legs."
The Spartans had much better success on their second offensive series. Methodically driving down the field as the drive ended up with 17 plays while chewing up almost nine minutes of the clock.
Faced with a fourth and 19 at the River Dell 17-yard line, Spartans quarterback Corey Petruzzella attempted to evade the pass rush. Still, sophomore linebacker Mason Nagle caught up with Petruzzella and sacked him, resulting in a turnover on downs with 45 seconds remaining in the quarter.
"We spent hours in the film room, practices and meetings," Mason Nagle described. "Everyone knew that we needed to do our job and task." When Paramus did get into our territory, we didn't let that stop us and got locked in on fourth down.
"It's been great playing for this coaching staff and team." "All the history, it's just truly an honor to put on the River Dell colors and numbers and what's behind everyone's numbers." "Just a great feeling to put that black and gold on Friday nights and represent our school."
Nick Sybel on the fourth down stop, "Once they got into the red zone, and we got that stop, we knew they weren't going to be able to score on us." "We were locked in and knew what these guys were doing." That flipped the momentum of the game to us.
Mason Nagle made his presence known in the second quarter on the pass rush, sacking quarterback Corey Petruzzella for a second time.
Another relatively short punt put the Golden Hawks offense in excellent field position at their 47-yard line. A pass interference penalty assessed against the Spartans' defense pushed the ball into Paramus territory.
River Dell utilized the running game, with senior running back Andrew Spano picking up chunks of yardage on back-to-back runs.
Jake Sconza completed a 14-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Chris Kelm that set up first and goal at the five-yard Spartan line. On first down, Sconza dropped back in the pocket and zipped a pass to Max Froonjian, who plowed ahead into the end zone for the score with 7:23 left, extending the Golden Hawks' advantage to 14-0.
Mason Nagle wreaked havoc on the Spartans' offensive line, again surging forward to sack Corey Petruzzella for the trifecta in sacks.
Nick Sybel on Mason Nagle's defensive performance, "When you got one of those guys who's a sophomore and he's one of the hardest working guys on the team and plays his heart out on every play." "You can trust those guys especially when he's getting results and really special." It's a confidence booster when he makes those plays.
Paramus backed up deep in their territory and committed a costly miscue on a high snap as the ball landed out of bounds in the end zone culminating in safety and River Dell's 16-0 advantage with three and a half minutes to go.
The Spartans special team's unit attempted to catch the Golden Hawks off guard with a pooch kick, but Scott Sybel fell on the ball at the River Dell 39-yard line.
Displaying no hesitation going for it on a fourth down play, quarterback Jake Sconza rumbled for ten yards, advancing the ball deep into the Paramus end of the field.
On second down at the 22-yard line, Sconza dropped back in shotgun formation and rifled a pass in stride to wide receiver Jack Carey who muscled past a couple of Spartans defensive players into the end zone for the score that expanded the margin to 23-0 with 1:04 remaining.
The Golden Hawks' defensive line was ferocious in pursuing Paramus quarterback Corey Petruzzella as junior defensive lineman Connor Yeandle dropped Petruzzella for the sack as the first half ended.
"Every week at halftime in the locker room whether we're winning or losing saying keep your foot on the gas," Nick Sybel stated. "It's a bunch of chatter but it's about the game and how to fix mistakes we're doing."
Feeding off the energy from the first-half success, River Dell increased the intensity in the second half. The Golden Hawks started a drive from their 39-yard line late in the third quarter.
On first down, quarterback Jake Sconza galloped 24 yards on a run that pushed the ball into Spartans territory. River Dell kept the ball on the ground, with Andrew Spano running back the bulk of the carries.
Once inside the red zone, the offensive line paved the way for Spano to crash through the line and muscle into the end zone for a four-yard score with four minutes left that increased the Golden Hawk's lead to 30-0.
Meanwhile, the River Dell defense blanketed the field with hard hits as Paramus attempted to mix up the running and passing game. Nick Sybel got into the sack category registering two of them.
The Golden Hawks finished the third quarter in grand style as sophomore Chris Kelm took the handoff from quarterback Jake Sconza and zig-zagged his way 39 yards to the end zone. Junior Nick Kelly got the opportunity for the extra point attempt and calmly belted the kick through the uprights, making it 37-0 River Dell.
In the fourth quarter, a bunch of seniors that have hardly seen playing time this season got the opportunity to play some meaningful snaps.
"We were saying these guys were going to get in by the end of the game," Nick Sybel said. "It finally happened and was great." Seeing the guys who work so hard for you to get better on your side of the ball and the scout team and get some time is a special moment for everyone.
The Spartans scored with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. However, that did not dampen the spirits of the Golden Hawks players as the final seconds ticked off, and a 37-7 victory as River Dell retained the Battle of Midland Ave. Trophy for a third consecutive year.
Mason Nagle on the win, "It was great, we knew we wanted to keep the trophy because we lost the other games and once the final buzzer hit it was truly special holding up that trophy in front of those fans and our coaches knowing how much work we put in and deserve this."
With the victory, the Golden Hawks evened up their record at 4-4, which has enabled them to host Vernon(6-2) in the North Section 1, Group 3 state playoffs this Friday, October 28th, at River Dell High School with kickoff set for 6 p.m. The Vikings are on a hot streak, having won five in a row.
This a rematch from last year's state playoffs, where River Dell defeated Vernon 39-26 in the quarterfinal round at River Dell High School.
Nick Sybel on the upcoming playoff game against Vernon, "It's going to take a lot of focus from us, last year we had a really good team and they were and this year too." "They have some really good guys but we're focused and we have to take control and stop the run game because they have a good running back and line."
Mason Nagle on the playoff matchup vs. Vernon, "They're a pretty good team and we know this isn't going to be an easy game." "We know what the task is and how much work to put in." "We're going to put in a great week of practice and meetings and best game forward on Friday and see what happens."