Early deficit too much for River Dell to overcome in a loss at West Essex

The River Dell Golden Hawks had plenty of reasons to celebrate in the 2021 regular-season opener at Parsippany Hills. They defeated the Vikings 26-21, but more importantly, the Golden Hawks won their 400th game in program history. Making his first-ever start, sophomore Jake Sconza throwing for 273 yards and three touchdowns. However, the victory did come at a steep price, with seniors Ryan Gillies and Will Fletcher sustaining injuries.

Remaining on the road, River Dell traveled to West Essex last Friday. A more tranquil trip compared to the eventful hour in change bus trip the week before to Parsippany Hills, the Golden Hawks were attempting to build off the success from week one.

Senior Aidan Cochran commented on the week leading up to the game, the football field at West Essex High School, and the pre-game ceremony marking the 20th Anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on America.

"I don't think we had the greatest week of practice; we had a few kids show up late to practice and we had one of our starters not be able to practice all week because he was sick." "They actually had a moment of silence right before the national anthem, the field was amazing and stands from the 15-yard line to the 15-yard line on both sides and one of the biggest games we have played as a team."

The Knights marched right down the field on their opening drive that resulted in quarterback Robert Lasher tossing a six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Corbo. In the second quarter, West Essex tacked on two additional scores. First, Joe Visaggio on a six-yard run, followed by Donnie Long scampering into the endzone from 17 yards out. Long finished the game with 104 rushing yards on 11 carries.

Aidan Cochran on the start of the game, defensive effort, and play from the offense. "The opening drives of both teams really set just kind of set the tone of the game, we had them stopped twice on fourth down." "First time they converted on a fourth and nine and that changed the entire momentum of the game."

"Offensively driving down on the first drive I think we had 60 yards in penalties but we still got it down to the one-yard line, but we couldn't punch it in." "Honestly I don't think we played too bad but whenever we got started to get something done we would shoot ourselves in the foot with a dumb penalty or bad snap."

By the time the Golden Hawks reached the locker room for halftime, Cochran had said it was the leadership displayed from Will Fletcher that motivated River Dell to get back into the flow of the game for the second half.

"(Will)Fletcher actually fired us up, he came in and talked to us." "He told us stop this and we need to get our stuff together." "We played much better defense and they couldn't move the ball as much."

Most importantly, Cochran pointed out the impact that Ryan Gillies has on the team. "Ryan is probably our most vocal guy on the team, he knows everything that's going on in our offense, defense and secondary." "He is also the leader of the linebackers, we didn't have single linebacker return from last year."

On the bright side of things, the River Dell defense pitched a shutout in the second half. Jake Sconza threw his fourth touchdown pass of the season, second to senior Colin Quinn in the fourth quarter, as the Golden Hawks avoided the shutout.

Colin Quinn on the team's performance and a touchdown catch, "We went down early in the game, we preach not giving up and keep playing football." "We kept playing four quarters but it wasn't enough." We made some adjustments at halftime, some young guys got their first varsity starts, and it was good for them to get that under their belts with the schedule we have coming up.

"It was late in the game, we're down 20-0 and not looking too good." "We're going to play the whole game, give it 100 percent and we were in their territory and Jake Sconza dropped back and hit me on a slant route and I found the endzone."

"Jake(Sconza) is a great kid and competitor, and he loves the game." "He's learning everyday from Coach (DJ) Nimphius and we're all helping him out and he's got a load of talent." He's going to keep getting better.

"We knew that he was going to be the starter coming in, he kept working and didn't mean he was going to slack off." "That says something about his work ethic and how he wants to get better." He's one of my good friends, and I love playing with him.

River Dell shifts attention to the 2021 home opener against Westwood in the annual "Bird Bowl," where the winner of the game receives a trophy of a football inside of a birdcage. The Golden Hawks have won the last two matchups, including a 24-7 win back in 2019 at Westwood Regional High School. When it comes to the overall series, the teams have split the 40 games played.

Initially scheduled for Friday, September 17th at 6 p.m., the teams will play on Saturday, September 18th, with kickoff scheduled for 11 a.m. Westwood is also sporting a 1-1 record and coming off a 35-20 loss to Ramsey last week.

Aidan Cochran on the rivalry against Westwood and home opener, "We just want to keep that cage at our school, bounce back from the loss(West Essex) and show our brotherhood." "Getting ready to play in front of our school, our parents' and on our home field." It means a lot to us, and we're going to show out and make a game out of it.

Colin Quinn on this senior class and upcoming home opener, "It's a really good group of guys, we have been playing together since we were really young and love hanging out outside of football." "We got some competitors, good football players and love playing football."

"I love playing for this program, it's always a good time when the community and students come out and good atmosphere at a home opener and especially in a big game like Westwood with the Bird Bowl." "Westwood is a good football program, they have young guys that compete and come out and play pretty well."

"We got to prepare the entire week and make sure we're working hard every day." "It's a process throughout the week, we just got to key on getting those inexperienced guys some work and guys more healthy and we got to listen to our coaches."

I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified