River Dell Golden Hawks Varsity Football Team soars past Vernon 35-14 in the North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 Quarterfinals
The River Dell Golden Hawks varsity football team(5-4) hosted the Vernon Vikings(6-3) in the North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 Quarterfinals at River Dell High School.
River Dell was coming off an impressive 37-7 win over Paramus in the Battle of Midland Ave and Senior Night the week before at home.
The Golden Hawks and Vikings were facing off against each other for a second consecutive year in the sectional playoff tournament, with River Dell prevailing last year in a high-scoring contest 39-26.
Senior quarterback Jake Sconza on the match-up vs. Vernon, "We knew that it would be tough back-to-back weeks against Paramus and Vernon, two very good teams and well coached." "We knew that we had to prepare well and practice all week like we have all season and wat we play on our home turf."
"Coach(DJ Nimphius) said that Vernon was coming for us after last year's loss because they felt the loss of being knocked out in the first round and coming in hot and for us."
Senior linebacker Nick Sybel on facing Vernon for a second time in the playoffs, "What helped us was the Paramus game and we knew that if we didn't win, we weren't going to be in the playoffs." "That really helped with our mindset and preparation for the next few weeks."
The teams took the field on a splendid fall night for a playoff football game; with majestical skies and crisp temperatures, withstands were filled with supporters and people standing behind the fences.
River Dell elected to defer in the coin toss, with Vernon receiving the ball first. The Golden Hawks' defense wasted no time asserting their presence, forcing a quick three and out.
"Being able to stop them on the very first drive we knew that we were going to have a very good game," Nick Sybel described. "That really set the tone for the whole game."
With less than ten minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Golden Hawks had the ball at their 34-yard line. River Dell pounded the rock with Jake Sconza and senior running Andrew Spano running the ball.
The Golden Hawks were facing a key fourth down and two at the Vernon 31-yard line, Spano blasting through the bar for a four-yard gain to keep the drive alive.
Jake Sconza completed his first game pass to senior wide receiver Max Froonjia, who moved into the red zone. After Andrew Spano carried the ball to the Vikings' five-yard line, Sconza took a direct snap, faked a handoff, and barreled straight ahead into the end zone for the touchdown that resulted in a 12-olay 66-yard drive that chewed up five and minutes of the clock. The extra point was no good, leaving the score at 6-0.
"That was a nice long drive, the offensive line played great all night long, and how everyone's mindset was all week and going into the game," Jake Sconza explained. "Andrew(Spano) had a couple of great runs." I faked the ball to Andrew, and the whole offensive line did a great job pushing guys back and following them into the end zone.
Vernon followed a similar blueprint to River Dell by running the ball on their following offensive series. Running back Gage Moskovitz picking up chunks of yardage as the Vikings advanced the ball into Golden Hawks' territory.
Vernon faced a fourth down in the second quarter, but the River Dell defense stepped up to the plate by forcing an incomplete pass and turnover on downs.
However, the Golden Hawks' offense went three and out on their ensuing offensive possession. Despite that outcome, Max Froonjian boomed a punt that landed at the Viking's 30-yard line.
Vernon needed three plays to take the lead as Gage Moskovitz powered his way up the field on running plays. Moskovitz took the handoff from quarterback Derek Lazier and rumbled 35 yards to the end zone as the Vikings went up 7-6.
River Dell started at their 21-yard line after the kickoff. That was no problem for the Golden Hawks offense steamrolling down the field by mixing up the run and passing game and going to a hurry-up style.
An 11-play, 79-yard drive culminating in Andrew Spano taking the handoff from Jake Sconza and plowing for a four-yard touchdown run.
Instead of the extra point attempt, River Dell chose the two-point conversion option. On the play, Jake Sconza took the snap, then rolled to his left and, off balance, lofted a pass to Andrew Spano in the left corner of the end zone for the successful conversion that made it 14-7 Golden Hawks with less than six minutes remaining.
"We wanted to get the ball in quick all night long and wanted to make them get tired and run out of gas," Jake Sconza noted. "Andrew(Spano) played a phenomenal gamed and he was running hard all night long." He made some great cuts to get into the end zone.
"On the two-point play, it was supposed to go to Jack Carey but there were two Vernon defenders on him, so I extended the play by scrambling out to the left and Andrew was behind both of the defenders, and I lobbed it to him, and he got two feet in and the two points."
River Dell's advantage would be short-lived as the Vikings answered back on their next offensive drive. Vernon began at their 29-yard line and marched down the field in eight plays, eating up four minutes of the clock.
On third down and four at the Golden Hawks' 33-yard line, Gage Moskovitz took the handoff from Derek Lazier and darted through several players on his way to the end zone as the Vikings tied the game up at 14-14.
Even with limited time left on the clock proved to be more than ample time for the River Dell offense. Jake Sconza completed two substantial passes to sophomore wide receiver Ryan Rossig, pushing the ball into Vernon territory.
A pass interference call assessed against the Viking's defense moved the ball down to the 22-yard line. With time winding down, Jake Sconza attempted to throw a pass but got sacked as the first half ended.
Once the second half kicked off, the Golden Hawks' offense picked up where it had left in the first half. The ability to grind the ball out on the ground wore the Vernon defensive line out.
On second down at the Viking's 37-yard line, Jake Sconza dropped back in the pocket and aired out a pass to wide receiver Max Froonjian in stride for the touchdown as River Dell jumped back in front 21-14.
"I faked the handoff to Andrew and tried to get one of the defenders to come downhill, and Max got over the top, and I put it up for grabs, and he made a great play on the ball," Jake said; Sconza stated.
Vernon was backed up deep inside their territory on their following offensive possession. River Dell's defense crashed through on the first play, limiting running back Gage Moskovitz to a one-yard gain.
The Viking's offense decided to switch to the passing game, which yielded no positive results with three incomplete passes.
On fourth down, Vernon attempted to catch the Golden Hawks special team's unit off guard with a fake punt run. The play backfired miserably, with a fumble and sophomore RJ Weiss recovering the ball at the Viking's 16-yard line.
"At halftime, we knew what we were doing wrong in the running game, and Coach(Eric)Morgan came up with a fix to stop it," Nick Sybel said. "When they got the ball in the second half, we came out and stopped them." With that correction, we knew they weren't going to get any yards at all.
River Dell immediately capitalized on the short field. Jake Sconza completed a spectacular pass to wide receiver Max Froonjian as he managed to keep his feet remarkably in bounds for a 15-yard gain.
On the second goal and goal at the one-yard, Jake Sconza took the snap and plunged in behind the offensive line for the touchdown that widened the margin to 28-14.
"All night long the credit goes to the offensive line and they pushed and grinded," Jake Sconza said.
In the fourth quarter, the River Dell defense continued to excel as Max Froonjian produced a highlight reel moment on a leaping interception in the end zone. Jack Carey also got into the mix, picking off a Derek Lazier pass.
The Golden Hawks' offense went to a smashmouth style with running back Andrew Spano, the workhorse. Spano amassed 12 of his 30 carries on the night, totaling 156 yards in the game.
Late in the fourth quarter, Max Froonjian cemented the 35-14 victory. Froonjian tipped the ball to himself on a pass thrown by Derek Lazier intended for a Vernon wide receiver and scampering to the end zone for the touchdown.
Quarterback Jake Sconza finished with 57 yards on the ground. Through the air, Sconza was electric, completing 12 of 20 passes for 179 yards.
Nick Sybel, on the victory, "You play like that after practicing your balls off all week, and a great week of practice, we knew what the outcome was going to be." "We knew how we were going to play; it didn't show in the first half, but once we got going, we were something different." After so many weeks of trying to get it right, then you do. It feels amazing building with these guys all season, and the bond makes it great.
"It could be the last time I ever played on this field but to go out on that notes on that field feels good to know we left it all out there and couldn't have done anymore." "It's obviously sad and you're going to miss it and definitely get upset especially after the season's over but we'll remember it for the rest of our lives."
Now, River Dell turns its attention to a North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 semifinal showdown vs. second seed Hillside on Saturday, November 5th, with kickoff set for 2 p.m. at Woodfield Stadium in Hillside, New Jersey. The Comets defeated Parsippany Hills 33-28 in the quarterfinals.
"That's an outstanding football team, and we need to have a great week of practice," Jake Sconza explained. "We know that we have to go and above beyond this weekend." On Saturday, we want to show everyone who we really are and how much we've grown, go out there, get the win, and move on to the sectional final.
Sconza on possibly playing his last home game at River Dell High School, "It's crazy to think that most likely I'm never going to play on that turf again." "I remember all my four years and how it passed me now and I'm a senior and all my buddies are."
Nick Sybel on the upcoming semifinal game against Hillside, "It's going to take a lot, and this has to be our best week by far." "They're a great team, and we have an extra day this week." "We need this extra work because we have to watch more film and practice at such a high level before we go into the game, and nothing can surprise us." It's going to come in handy, we're going to feel it by the end of the week, but we're just trying to get our knowledge straight.