River Dell rolls past Pascack Valley for third straight win


Winners of two in a row, the River Dell Golden Hawks(4-1) varsity football team wrapped up a three-game homestand on Friday night at River Dell High School. They welcomed a Pascack Valley Panthers(3-2) squad that had also won their past two games.

The Golden Hawks offense was firing on all cylinders in the past two games, tallying 64 points. Junior quarterback Jake Sconza increased his total passing yardage on the season to 1,161 yards while totaling ten touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Colin Quinn led the team in receptions with 33 and 531 yards, while senior wide receiver Kyle Case registered 333 yards and five touchdowns.

Pascack Valley was equally impressive, scoring 67 points in the last two games. Senior quarterback Ethan Silcher throwing for 479 yards on the season and nine touchdowns, senior running back Nick Messina rushing for 448 yards and five touchdowns, and senior wide receiver Dylan Hutchinson hauling in 22 receptions for 388 yards and five touchdowns.

A crisp fall night with the students' section, an overflow crowd around the perimeter of the football field, and junior football players and cheerleaders. There were plenty of compelling storylines with which the team would extend their winning streak to three games and raise the 'Rumble for the Rail' trophy once the game ended. Last season River Dell defeated Pascack Valley in a low-scoring contest 7-2 at Pascack Valley.

Senior players Aidan Cochran and Ryan Gillies on the junior football players in attendance for the game. Aidan Cochran, "I definitely remember when I was younger going to games and watch the kids you look up to and want to play like and amazing feeling for us to know they're looking up to us and we want to make sure we show them what River Dell football is all about."

Ryan Gillies, "I remember being one of those kids giving out high fives, just coming into a leadership role on our team and you can notice the effect you have on those kids and how much they look up to you." "I looked up to my brother when he played, Mike Sirico and Joey Mellett and you just learn a lot from the older kids and just want to pass it onto the kids who are coming after you."

More importantly, the 1970 River Dell undefeated and sectional championship team being honored at halftime of the game. Aidan Cochran on the impact the 1970 team had on the current Golden Hawks varsity football squad, "They actually came to our pasta dinner on Thursday night and when we were getting ready for the game in the locker room." "Coach (Eric) Morgan said it best we're playing in front of our old and future generation so we got to show what we got."

Ryan Gillies on the 1970 team, "It was really an honor to see all those guys come together after all those years and really proves how special a program this is." "They had guys flying in from all over the country to come in and just to be together and honored."

"Getting to talk to some of those guys and hear their stories about their days playing football." "It was great motivation going into the game and just to know there is great history with this program and we have a lot of expectations to live up to."

The Golden Hawk's defense wasted no time establishing their presence, with the Panthers receiving the opening kickoff. Senior defensive back Gabriel Case intercepted a pass thrown by Ethan Silcher and returned the ball to the Pascack Valley 25-yard line.

On 2nd and ten from the 13-yard line, River Dell cashed in on the turnover with Jake Sconza threading the needle on a pass to Ryan Gillies as he stretched the ball across the goal line for the touchdown with less than 10 minutes remaining. The extra point attempt was blocked, leaving the score at 6-0.

Late in the first quarter, the River Dell special teams' unit played a critical factor in forcing a two-yard punt. The Golden Hawk's offense quickly moved into the red zone, with Sconza completing a 12-yard pass to Kyle Case followed by Sconza running for 13 yards.

Before the quarter ended, Sconza completed a pass to Ryan Gillies, but the ball popped into the air and off a Panthers defender. Luckily Kyle Case was in the right place to recover the ball at the two-yard line. Once the second quarter got underway, Sconza took the handoff on second and goal at the one-yard line and plowed through the line for the score with 11:17 left.

Looking as though River Dell might be on their way to a rout, a special teams' mishap on a punt deep inside Golden Hawks territory presented a golden opportunity for Pascack Valley. On second and nine at the 12-yard line, Panthers running back Nick Messina took the handoff and cut to his right before blasting through the middle of the defense into the end zone for the score with less than four minutes to go.

Starting at the 35-yard line, Jake Sconza showcased his ability to spread the ball around. Sconza took the snap, rolled out of the pocket, and unleashed a perfect 48-yard pass downfield to senior wide receiver Nolan Gilmour. On third and 11 from the 18-yard line, Sconza lofted a high arching pass to Ryan Gillies in the left corner of the end zone. The two-point conversion failed as River Dell led 19-7 with 2:32 left on the clock.

"Ryan Gillies on Jake Sconza and coming back from an injury. "Jake is a great player, he can make almost every throw anywhere on the field, and it just boosts your confidence, and as a receiver knowing if you are open, the ball is coming your way at any time." "We've always had great quarterbacks at River Dell, and Jake is shaping up to be one of the best ones we've had yet and proud of the way he has progressed this season."

"I think it's really all about the preparation we do with Coach (DJ)Nimphius, he places a large emphasis on every detail, he is preparing us to be mentally sharp and I'm watching film every single day and breaking down things for Coach(DJ Nimphius)." "I had to keep myself in mentally because I knew at one point where you are going to come back and got to be ready."

The back-and-forth action continued on the ensuing Pascack Valley offensive series. With 2:28 left, running back Nick Messina gained 35 yards on the ground coupled with Ethan Silcher completed a 15-yard pass to wide receiver Dylan Hutchinson. On first and ten from the River Dell 33-yard line, Silcher tossed a screen pass in the flat to Nick Messina, who did the rest rumbling down the left sidelines for the score with 11 secs remaining.

Once the second half got underway, a deep punt from Golden Hawks punter Max Froonjian landed at the Panthers' four-yard line. After the Pascack Valley moved the ball to the 20-yard line, a critical sack from Gabriel Case pushed the ball back further. A false start penalty assessed placed the ball at the five-yard line.

A short punt combined with a great return by Colin Quinn gave the River Dell offense excellent field position at the Pascack Valley 19-yard line. Jake Sconza completed a pair of passes to move the ball inside the ten-yard line. On second and goal at the six, lofted a pass into the left corner of the end zone as Kyle Case hauled in the catch for the score.

Jake Sconza on Kyle Case, "Kyle had a pretty tough start to the game but I went up to him at halftime and said you are better than this." "He got relaxed and started making plays."

The Golden Hawk's defense dialed up the heat, forcing the Panthers' offense into a quick three and out. Back on offense, River Dell started at their 41-yard line.

On second and ten at the Pascack Valley 49-yard line, Jake Sconza took the snap, looked to his right before scrambling to his left and airing out a pass down the left sidelines Ryan Gillies. They got behind the Panthers' secondary and sprinted into the end zone with 3:42 left, extending the River Dell advantage to 32-14, and third-time Sconza connected with Gillies for a touchdown in the game.

Jake Sconza on the score, "That honestly comes from al the practices, making every type of thrown on the field and working out." "The repetitive reps just make it better and perfecting every route we are going to run during the week."

However, Pascack Valley displayed a ton of grit and determination. Refusing to throw in the towel, Ethan Silcher orchestrated an eight-play 69-yard drive that chewed over two minutes culminating in a 19-yard pass to Dylan Hutchinson that narrowed the margin to 32-21.

In the fourth quarter, both teams exchanged punts. The Golden Hawk's offense got the ball back with less than ten minutes left. They marched down the field deep inside Panthers' territory but could not convert a fourth-down conversion resulting in a turnover on downs.

The Pascack Valley offense got the ball back at their 19-yard line but could hardly advance the ball due to a staunch River Dell defense that slammed the fort shut, forcing a turnover on downs.

The Golden Hawks offense did not disappoint this time around in getting into the end zone. Jake Sconza kept the drive alive with a pivotal completion to Ryan Gillies on fourth and sixth at the 12-yard line. Sconza barreled through a sea of players for his second rushing score on second and goal at one.

"The second touchdown I know that sealed the game," Jake Sconza described. "I know they were not going to be able to come back with that much time left." The offensive line had a great game, and they were pushing all night.

Nick Messina of Pascack Valley rounded out the scoring notching his third touchdown, second rushing as time expired with the final score 39-27 River Dell, a third consecutive victory, and raising the 'Rumble on the Rail' trophy on the field.

Aidan Cochran on the win, "We were talking it about last week we wanted to defend the rail and we wanted to keep all three trophies we had at the school." "We got two out of three and just one more to get."

On Saturday, October 2nd, the Golden Hawks travel to Nutley for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff. The Maroon Raiders are sporting the same record as River Dell at 4-1 but coming off a 27-0 loss to Demarest.

Aidan Cochran on the upcoming game against Nutley, "Nutley is an excellent team, they are 4-1, and we're going to have to play pretty well to beat them." "We're going to be prepared and already developed more of a run game compared from the West Essex game to this game." We're feeling much more confident defensively, stopping the run, and hopefully, we can play a complete game and have a good week of practice, and we will be fine."

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