River Dell High School freshman football team moves to 7-0 with a 35-16 win over Vernon

Fresh off a hard-fought 8-6 win over Nutley last week at River Dell High School, the River Dell Golden Hawks freshman football extended their undefeated record to 6-0. Initially scheduled to play Bergenfield at home, a last-minute cancellation forced the team to scramble to find a replacement that was Vernon.

River Dell Head Coach Mike Aliano on having to prepare for a different opponent, "Earlier in the week Bergenfield said it was not going to be able to field a team." "Our athletic director Denis Nelson put out an e-mail if anybody's looking for a game and Vernon was gracious enough to accept the game." "We practice all week, obviously you want to play in a game and these kids have something to look forward to in getting on that field."

Once the game got underway, the Golden Hawks blasted out of the gate on the first offensive possession. They chewed up the clock in the entire first quarter. Quarterback RJ Weiss took the direct snap and plowed straight ahead for a four-yard touchdown. Deciding to go for the two-point conversion, Weiss tossed a pass to Chris Kelm in the flat, Kelm doing the rest sprinting down the left hash marks into the end zone.

Keeping the pressure on Vernon, River Dell attempted a very successful, with Christian Pennetta recovering the ball in Vernon's territory. The Golden Hawks offense driving the ball down the field to set up first and goal at the four-yard line. Weiss took the snap and barreling straight ahead in the second quarter, standing up for the score.

"We had a pretty good first drive, 10 to 11 plays and then I made the decision to go for the onside kick and we recovered it," Mike Aliano explained. "We practice this stuff all the time during the week and I tell the kids you never know when you are going to need it so we executed it and put our offense right back out on the field." Our offensive play coach John Budka put together a drive, and we eventually ended up scoring.

Meanwhile, the River Dell defense putting the clamps down on any chance Vernon had to move the ball and score. Facing fourth down in Golden Hawks territory, the River Dell secondary came up with a clutch knockdown on a pass to force a turnover on downs.

The Golden Hawk's offense quickly advanced the ball on a significant gain from Chris Kelm on a running play, followed by RJ Weiss completing passes to Dean Marucci and Mason Nagle. With first and goal at the Vernon four-yard line, Weiss lined up in shotgun formation, took the snap, and rolled out of the pocket, taking off along the right hash marks before scooting just inside of the right pylon for the score.

"Coach Sam(Halabi) works with our offensive line and he's done a great job this season again," Mike Aliano noted. "They're coming along really well, in the beginning they were struggling a little bit and through six or seven games they keep on getting better." "Coach(Steve) Iafrate has done an execellent job with our receivers and they're blocking and with downfield routes and everybody's really done their part so far this year to put the team in a position where we are."

In the third quarter, River Dell extended their lead to 29-0 on a highlight-reel play. RJ Weiss lofted a pass to Ryan Rossig, who in turn evaded and juked several Vernon defensive players before racing down the right side of the field for the 47-yard touchdown.

Ryan Rossig on RJ Weiss and touchdown run, "This is the first year RJ is playing quarterback, I never really knew he had such a great arm coming into this year, and he put the work in and has such a great mindset." "He is always pushing us in practice to get better, and it's impacted us a lot." I caught the ball like I was supposed to, followed the blocks in a certain way, and ended up making three people miss me and took it all the way."

Head Coach Mike Aliano on Ryan Rossig, "Ryan is a good player and he doesn't ask to be thrown the ball." "He does his own thing, we ask him to block and he hasn't been rewarded enough this year as far as catches." I, Coach Halabi, and Coach Budka wanted him to get the ball, and he did and scored. He's an unsung player that doesn't ask for anything; he does what he's asked to do, is very coachable, and is just a good kid.

Despite holding a commanding lead in the third quarter, Vernon made a late charge scoring two touchdowns, plus adding a two-point conversion to make it a 29-16 game in the fourth quarter. However, the Golden Hawks defense made the lead stand up. Ryan Rossig cementing the victory by intercepting a pass and returning for a score as the final whistle blew.

"We were working kids in all game regardless of whether they are starters and level," Mike Aliano described. "We tell in practice all week to get in and make sure you are getting reps." "In practice the coaches are going to tell you to rotate in but if you want to play you're going to rotate yourself in and learn what you are doing and comprehend that everything is going on." We had a little lapse, and that showed, and they started making a comeback, and we had to readjust what we were doing, and Ryan(Rossig) closed it out.

Next up for River Dell is an away game at Ramsey High School on Saturday, October 23rd, with kickoff set for 9:00 a.m.

"We have to have a good week of practice, solidify some of the things we do and just go out and play the best that we can and try to limit some of the mistakes and we'll see what happens," Mike Aliano remarked.

"It's been a long journey so far but to be in the position we are and continuously tell the kids you have to put in the effort and these kids bought in real early." "This group is pretty cohesive, they're all friendly with each other and close-knit group." We're fortunate enough to have close to 25 kids, and it's been a while since we had numbers this high, and honestly, I think it has helped us throughout the season.

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