River Dell clicks on all cylinders in 33-13 win over Demarest


Less than a week removed from an impressive 31-20 win over Westwood in the 2021 regular-season home opener and 41st annual Bird Bowl, the River Dell Golden Hawks varsity football team returned to action on Friday night, hosting Demarest at River Dell High School. The Golden Hawks raised the Bird Cage trophy for a sixth consecutive year.

Senior offensive/defensive lineman Aidan Cochran described the team preparing for the game against Demarest. "This past we week we did not practice in pads, coming back on a short week we just wanted to stay healthy and safe." "We did a lot of scheme work and felt the most important thing for us just getting better within ourselves and stop focusing too much on the opponent and more on what we do."

Entering the game, the Norsemen had lost two games in a row. They did not resemble a team with a losing record early on driving down the field in nine plays and 73 yards capped off by a 31-yard touchdown run from running back Chris Short.

However, the River Dell offense countered that opening score with a solid drive on their first possession. Junior running back Andrew Spano providing a spark with a 32-yard kickoff return to the Golden Hawk's 42-yard line.

Accounting for four touchdowns against Westwood, junior quarterback Jake Sconza picked up where he left off the week before engineering a 12-play drive that chewed up four minutes off the clock. On first and goal at the four-yard line, Sconza dropped back in the pocket.

Shifting to his left side, Sconza sprinted towards the left sidelines and found an opening into the endzone. The extra point was no good as Demarest led 7-6 with less than four minutes left.

After forcing the Demarest offense into a three and out, the River Dell offense started with an excellent field position. Colin Quinn returned a punt 23 yards to the Norseman 28-yard line. Wasting no time at all, Jake Sconza scrambled out of the pocket to his left side and launched a throw to the left corner of the endzone as senior wide receiver Kyle Case hauled in the touchdown catch with 1:02 left.

"I really didn't play the first three years of varsity football," Kyle Case described. "I came in really inexperienced, got into a role, worked hard and Coach(DJ Nimphius) kept telling me in the off-season that I was going to surprise everyone and no one believed it and when the season came around I just worked hard and now playing well."

In the second quarter, the Norsemen offense was back on the move. They were driving deep into River Dell territory at the 34-yard line. Facing a 4th and 6th, Demarest went for it only to see the Golden Hawks stop quarterback Andrew Argenziano short of the first down marker on the run.

Back on offense with less than eight minutes remaining, the River Dell offense faced an important decision on a fourth and two from their 37-yard line. Head Coach DJ Nimphius's gamble to go for it paid off as Jake Sconza spun around the pocket and off-balance, heaving a 63-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Colin Quinn in stride down the left sidelines.

"I knew coming into the season I was going to have to work hard, the job was not going to be handed to me right away," Jake Sconza explained. "I knew that I was going to have to show Coach (DJ) Nimphius I was going to be ready from the start and gain his trust in me." The plays he's allowing me to make and his play calls are making me a better player, and he knows I'll be able to extend the play.

"I love making those plays, I put a spin move on the kid and my eyes were straight down the field and I see Colin(Quinn) all the way down there." "I threw it on one foot and not normally the way I throw it but I made an athletic play throwing it in the air throwing off one foot and got it pretty high up in the air for Colin and hit him in stride and he was able to beat the kid on the outside and score a touchdown."

Looking to extend the lead even further, the Golden Hawks elected to go for the two-point conversion. Lining up in the shotgun formation, Sconza took the snap and fired a laser beam

pass to Kyle Case in the left side of the endzone as Case made a sensational one-handed catch making it River Dell 21-7 with 6:45 remaining in the second quarter.

"I was a huge Odell Beckham Jr. fan growing up, I really idolized him and his one-hand catching," Kyle Case noted. "I find myself improving my game and you never know when you are going to get yourself into a situation like I did where I can't get my other hand up."

Meanwhile, the River Dell defense continued to put the pressure forcing Demarest into another quick three-and-out series. The Golden Hawks started with good field position again at their 48-yard line with less than five minutes to go.

Back-to-back running plays from junior running back Andrew Spano advanced the ball into Norseman territory. However, a sack by Demarest linebacker Roger Hong on Jake Sconza pushed the ball back to the 48-yard line.

Looking to make a big play on 3rd and 19, Jake Sconza zipped a pass into the middle of the field only to see Norseman defensive back Karan Khemlani intercept the pass and sprint back down the left sidelines for the 68-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt was no good as River Dell led 21-13.

On the ensuing offensive possession with two minutes remaining, Golden Hawks junior running back Max Froonjian busted loose through the line for a 45-yard run that moved the ball to the Demarest 32-yard line. However, the drive stalled out as River Dell turned the ball over on downs, thus leading to a 21-13 advantage at halftime.

With the Golden Hawk's receiving the second-half kickoff, the offense came out clicking on all cylinders. Starting at the 26-yard line Jake Sconza completed consecutive passes to Colin Quinn. After Sconza gained 12 yards on a run, a pivotal pass interference call advanced the ball to the Demarest 38-yard line.

On 2nd and 10, Jake Sconza dropped back in the pocket in shotgun formation and hurled a high-arching pass to wide receiver Kyle Case in stride for the 38-yard score with 10:26 left. The second straight game that Sconza had thrown two touchdown passes to Case while Case tallied his fifth touchdown catch this season. Throwing for 340 passing yards last week against Westwood, Sconza ended up throwing for 248 yards. A two-point conversion attempt pass failed, leaving the score at 27-13 River Dell.

"That was a good play; I liked that call because I knew Kyle(Case) was ready to just blow by that kid because all game he wanted the ball," Jake Sconza stated. "I sat back there, actually had to wait a little bit because the corner was playing way off and to give Kyle an extra step." A kid was coming at me, I gave that one extra second, and I just used all the power in my arm and just put it up there for Kyle."

Sconza on the pass protection from the offensive line, "At the beginning of the season they knew they were the underdogs, they knew they weren't the biggest or strongest but they were going to work the hardest." "I would meet with them during different days of the week and FaceTime and talked about where the blitzes would come and which way they were going to slide." We just got very close over the last couple of weeks, and they're my family members because they give me all the time back there to make those plays.

Kyle Case on the connection with Jake Sconza, "Jake and I always had a good connection, we were both on JV last year and both made great plays." "I was excited for him to be the starting quarterback this year because I know he worked hard." I'm just thrilled that I have a quarterback that can make any throw.

The scoring came to a grinding halt as both teams exchanged several punts. In the fourth quarter, the Golden Hawks were punting from their 42-yard line with six and half minutes, but a bad snap ended up in Demarest taking over inside the River 30-yard line.

Norsemen quarterback Andrew Argenziano completed a couple of passes combined with a four-yard run moved the ball to the six-yard line. The River Dell defense stepped up on the first play, knocking running back Karan Khemlani for a four-yard loss. Argenziano attempted to thread the needle on a pass in the endzone on second down, but Golden Hawks senior defensive back Nolan Gilmour swooped in for the pick.

Aidan Cochran provided the dagger for River Dell with three and half minutes remaining. Andrew Argenziano tossing a pass into the flat as Cochran leaped into the air and rumbled down the left sidelines for the 49-yard score sealing a Golden Hawks 33-13 victory.

"It still doesn't feel real, I still can't believe I scored my first high school varsity touchdown and just kind of a surreal moment," Aidan Cochran said. "It was a good play, and just all the weeks of work at practice and hard work I put in showed."

River Dell wraps up the three-game homestand this upcoming Friday at 6 p.m. hosting Pascack Valley that enters the game with the same record as the Golden Hawks at 3-1. At stake in the 'Rumble for The Rail' trophy, River Dell defeated Pascack Valley last year in a low-scoring contest 7-2.

On the upcoming game against Pascack Valley, Aidan Cochran, "We need another amazing week of practice and even better than last week." "Coach (DJ) Nimphius preached to all off-season we're not going to be carried single handedly by one person, we're going to be a team, we're going to work it out together and having guys step up in their roles at big points in games and it's been working out pretty much for us."

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