River Dell Golden Hawks varsity football team falls to Parsippany Hills in the 2023 regular season & home opener


The River Dell Golden Hawks varsity football team kicked off the 2023 regular season and home opener against a familiar opponent, the Parsippany Hills Vikings, at River Dell High School in Oradell, New Jersey.

River Dell and Parsippany Hills were facing off against each other in the regular season opener for a second consecutive year, with the Vikings emerging victorious last year 34-6.

Last season, the Golden Hawks finished with an overall 6-5 record and 3-2 in the Super Football Conference Patriot Blue. River Dell rolled past Vernon 35-14 in the first round of the North Jersey Section, Group 3 tournament before falling in the semifinals to Hillside 33-13.

The Golden Hawks usher in a new era with 20 seniors graduating last year, including the all-time passing leader in River Dell varsity football history, Jake Sconza. This year's team fielded a total of seven seniors.

A magnificent summer night with deep blue skies, golden sunshine, and warm temperatures, the stands packed to capacity with the River Dell student section, parents, and fans. In addition, numerous fans were standing on the outside perimeter.

The Golden Hawks team, led by Head Coach DJ Nimphius and junior linebacker Mason Nagle, carrying the signature green flag, raced out onto the field and burst through the paper signage held by the River Dell cheerleaders.

Mason Nagle on the support from the home fans and community, "They're so amazing and getting all the support from my teammates and community is a great feeling and running out representing my team."

Parsippany Hills received the opening kickoff, and immediately, the Golden Hawks rose to the occasion with senior defensive back Nick Kelly hauling an interception splendidly by backpedaling while falling to the ground.

Both teams struggled to move the ball as they traded punts as the quarter proceeded. With less than three minutes remaining, the Vikings put up the first points on the scoreboard as quarterback Jake Simoni fired a 30-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Joey Cicciotelli down the middle of the seam. The extra point attempt was no good, leaving the score at 6-0.

In the second quarter, Parsippany Hills strung together an 11-play 66-yard drive that lasted 3:42. The Vikings covered a critical fourth and 12 at the River Dell 12 with Jake Simoni hitting wide receiver on an 18-yard pass. The drive culminated in a 5-yard TD run by running back Julio Tatis with less than nine minutes remaining to extend the advantage to 13-0.

Utilizing a two-man quarterback system, sophomore Zion Yoon took over the signal duties for River Dell. That decision paid off immensely as Yoon went to a hurry-up style of play. Yoon completed several passes, including a key one to Nick Kelly. However, critical penalties against the Golden Hawks stymied the drive and resulted in a punt.

The River Dell defense regained its composure on the ensuing Parsippany Hills offensive possession, with senior defensive lineman Connor Yeandle registering his second sack.

Parsippany Hills managed to get the ball back late in the quarter after defensive back Joshua Smith picked off a pass thrown by Zion Yoon and returned the ball to the Golden Hawks' 42-yard line.

A decisive pass interference call assessed against the River Dell defense kept the Vikings' drive alive. With first and goal at the seven and three seconds to go in the quarter, quarterback Jake Simoni took the snap in shotgun formation and rolled to his right.

Under heavy duress, Simoni lofted a pass into the end zone, but Golden Hawks junior defensive RJ Weiss skied high to make the spectacular pick as he fell out of bounds, ending the first half.

The Vikings received the kickoff in the third quarter with a picturesque sunset unfolding. Parsippany Hills' offense was backed up deep inside their territory but discovered a delicate balance between the run and passing game to advance quickly into River Dell territory.

Once, the Golden Hawks' defense built a line in the sand. On a passing play, quarterback Jake Simoni attempted a pass over the middle of the field. Still, junior defensive back Deacon McGovern, positioned in the perfect spot, leaped into the air and corralled the ball for the magnificent interception.

A facemask personal foul assessed against the Vikings' defense gave River Dell a terrific starting field position at the Parsippany Hills 41-yard line. Zion Yoon completed a couple of passes, including a 21-yard pass to Nick Kelly that moved the ball down to the 16-yard line.

On first down, Yoon took the handoff and made a couple of nifty moves before running into a host of players and tackled to the ground. Looking as though Yoon's knee was down, the ball popped out and rolled into the end zone, with Vikings defensive back Julio Tatis recovering the ball.

After the officials had a lengthy discussion about the play, they ruled it was a fumble that resulted in a touchback, and Parsippany Hills had possession of the football.

With two minutes left in the quarter, the Vikings got the ball back at their 34-yard line and progressed in an expeditious manner that eventually stretched into the fourth quarter.

Parsippany Hills employed a pound-and-ground strategy with the running game, enabling the offense to reach the Golden Hawks 21-yard line. On first down, quarterback Jake Simoni hurled a TD pass to Joshua Smith to widen the lead to 20-0 with ten and half minutes left in the game t.

The Vikings padded their margin with six minutes in change left on one single play as quarterback Jake Simoni unleashed a 54-yard bomb to wide receiver Joey Ciccotelli that made it 27-0.

River Dell still displayed dogged determination and managed to avoid the shutout late in the game. With Phil Doornheim back under center, Doornheim completed a pair of deep passes as the Golden Hawks moved into the red zone.

On third and ten at the 12-yard line, Doorheim, in shotgun formation, took the handoff then looked left before flinging a pass to junior wide receiver Chris Kelm streaking across the middle for the touchdown. Senior placekicker Owen Windram split the uprights on the extra point kick to make it 27-7, which was the final score.

After the teams shook hands at midfield, a tremendous sign of unity ensued, with the Golden Hawks varsity football team running over to the Parsippany Hills sidelines to stand alongside the opposing players as the Vikings marching band performed the victory song.

On the post-game moment with the Parsippany Hills football team, Mason Nagle said, "It was a good sign of sportsmanship because they have a good tradition over there, and with the band playing their victory and sign of respect."

River Dell looks to right the ship on Thursday, September 7th, as they host the Bergenfield Bears(0-1) at River Dell High School, with kickoff set for 6 p.m.

"We made mistakes and have to be able to bounce back and learn to get better," Mason Nagle explained. "We know what we have to do better for this upcoming game."

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