River Dell High School freshman football team grinds out win over Nutley, improves to 6-0

Coming off an impressive 35-16 victory over Pascack Valley the week before that extended their undefeated record to 5-0, the River Dell Golden Hawks freshman football team returned to action against the Nutley Maroon Raiders on Saturday morning at River Dell High School.

During the week, Ashton Pastore offered these observations on the team's success this season. "We've always played together, it's good to see everyone getting better and there are a bunch of good players on our team." It starts with the defensive line; they're getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback, stuffing the run game, our linebackers are blitzing to get to the quarterback, and the secondary are getting interceptions.

"The first three weeks of practice during the summer everyone on the team wanted to get up in the morning knowing you were going to play football with your friends." "It's a big step from junior football, our coaches told to this would be a huge step up and to be more than ready than any other freshman team in a long time."

"It really starts with the coaches and they do everything." "Coach(Sammy) Halabi is the offensive/defensive line coach and does a great job." Coach(John)Budka does a lot with the running backs, and quarterbacks and Coach (Steve)Iafrate does a lot with the wide receivers and corners(cornerbacks), and head coach (Mike)Aliano does a little bit of everything and does a good job of that.

Before kickoff, Head Coach Mike Aliano knew his River Dell team would have their hands full against Nutley. A Maroon Raiders team also undefeated that had plenty of skilled players, especially at the quarterback and running back positions.

Once the game got underway on an overcast and cool fall morning, both teams had opportunities to put up the first points in the first half. Still, the defenses stood firming and not giving an inch resulting in either turnover on downs or turnovers.

"In the beginning we were not playing up to the way we should have been playing," Head Coach Mike Aliano explained. "We practice certain situations, we go over formations and our formations and we spent a lot of time on it and showing film."

Moving to the fourth quarter, Nutley broke the scoreless tie on a five-yard quarterback sneak. However, the Golden Hawks defense stacked up on the two-point conversion run leaving the score at 6-0.

Late in the fourth quarter, the River Dell offense discovered a formula in advancing the ball down the field. Quarterback RJ Weiss lined up in shotgun formation, took the snap, and burst through the middle and down the right sidelines for a considerable gain.

At the Maroon Raiders 20-yard line, running back, Chris Kelm took the handoff from Ashton Pastore and ran towards the left hashmark, shaking off a Nutley player before cutting back inside and rumbling into the end zone.

"Chris(Kelm) is a huge contributor for us, he's got a lot of athletic ability and an all-around good player for us," Head Coach Mike Aliano described. "I just think the more reps he gets under his belt it's just going to help him; he belongs where he is and it will help him as he goes through the program."

"We're hoping that he contributes on the varsity level, we need him to get even better than he is playing right now and but he has a lot more potential in him and expect big things from him in the next couple of years."

Looking to take the lead on the two-point conversion attempt, quarterback RJ Weiss lined up in shotgun formation and took the snap, lofting a pass over the top to Mason Nagle putting River Dell up 8-6.

"Little things like that play a big role and we work on them so much because at some point we're going to need them," Head Coach Mike Aliano cited. "That two-point conversion we work on a bunch of times throughout the week."

"RJ(Weiss) is a big contributor as well, he's a tough kid and we put a lot on his plate and he's just an all-around good athlete," Head Coach Mike Aliano noted. "As far as quarterback he hangs in there, he's taken some shots this year but still completed his passes." It's not an easy position to play here at River Dell, freshman year, it's big, and when you move up to the varsity level, Coach(DJ)Nimphius expects a lot out of his kids and puts high demands on the quarterbacks.

"He holds meetings on a regular basis two to three times a week for quarterbacks, he puts a lot on their plate and that's why they are so successful in certain positions and they play for us and just down the line throughout the whole program as they go through the four years as well."

Mason Nagle on catching the game-winning two-point conversion pass, "Coach(Mike Aliano) made a great call and RJ(Weiss) made a good throw and I caught the ball in the end zone."

With the game still hanging in the balance and an undefeated record at stake, Tyler Datz came up with a critical interception at midfield to seal the victory. "We got over a lot of that stuff in practice, we put a lot in front of the kids and up to them to grasp it and use it for once the actual game comes," Head Coach Mike Aliano remarked.

"They(Nutley) were a tough opponent but it's always fun to play games like that and just not blowouts and actually build off things." A fun atmosphere where you're playing close games, going back and forth, and not just beating up on teams.

"We have great turnouts for the freshman teams, it's cool when you see other teams practice and you're playing and bringing more people to your games." "We had the band practicing , it's always good to play in front of a bunch of people and especially with how well we are doing this year."

The Golden Hawks shift their attention to playing Bergenfield on Saturday, October 16th, with kickoff set for 9:00 a.m. at River Dell High School.

"Just like any other week, we have to get better at what we do, blocking, tackling, and going through our plays," Head Coach Mike Aliano said. "We focus on what the opponent does and how do we stop them." You really can't get caught up too much on the record; we have to go out and play the best we can that solidifies a win and keeps this moving."

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