River Dell High School freshman football team remains undefeated after a convincing 36-14 win over Ramsey
Undefeated through seven games in the 2021 regular season, the River Dell Golden Hawks freshman football team dominated most of their wins, except a 23-22 win over West Essex in week two and 8-6 over Nutley in week six.
Now the Golden Hawks would face their stiffest test up to this point against another undefeated team in Ramsey at Ramsey High School.
On a cold and damp Saturday morning, River Dell did not waste any time blasting out of the gate. Lined up for a punt, Deacon McGovern took the snap and lofted a pass over the line to a wide-open Chirs Kelm. Juking out one Ramsey defensive player Kelm sprinted down the right side of the field to the end zone for the 64-yard touchdown.
Head Coach Mike Aliano on the Golden Hawks fake punt for a score, "You never know when you are going to use certain things throughout a game and it could be in the first or fourth quarter." "That's why we practice things because you could use it any point in the game." You have to be ready and make sure what you are doing.
Once the Ramsey offense had their first offensive possession of the game, the River Dell defense made sure it was short-lived. On a running play, knocking the ball out of the running back as defensive Nick Berberian recovered the ball at the Rams 30-yard line.
"One of the goals of a defense before any game is to cause turnovers, rallying to the football to gang tackle and always try to preach," Head Coach Mike Aliano described. "The defense did their job so now the offense has to do theirs."
Advancing the ball down to the Ramsey five-yard line, quarterback RJ Weiss took the snap and fired a strike to Dean Marucci, who plowed ahead into the end zone. Going for the two-point conversion, RJ Weiss managed to gain the edge and scooted into the right corner of the end zone extending the Golden Hawks advantage to 14-0
In the second quarter, the explosive plays continued to pay off for River Dell on offense. With the ball at their 36-yard line, RJ Weiss handed the ball off to Chris Kelm, who did the rest from that point by finding an open space on the left side of the line and rumbling to the house for the score. The two-point conversion failed to leave the score at 20-0 Golden Hawks.
Catching the Ramsey kickoff team off guard, Golden Hawks kicker Deacon McGovern pooch kicked the ball. The kick returner for Ramsey was unable to secure the ball cleanly as Luke Westlake fell on the ball in Rams territory.
"A lot of teams I don't think are practicing special teams enough, Head Coach Mike Aliano explained. "As far as a football program, we did a study within our games over the last couple of years and had come to find out it's a big majority of the game, and special teams play a big role whether it's freshman, JV, or varsity."
"There's a lot more plays on special teams when you think about it and we do a lot of work on special teams as an entire program." "We spend a good amount of practice time on it because it does have a lot more often than people think and I think that's why we succeed on all the levels because we put it as a point of emphasis and focus."
Back in the red zone, the River Dell offense took full advantage of the short field. Quarterback RJ Weiss dropped back in the pocket and tossed a pass to a wide-open Mason Nagle for the score. Opting again for the two-point conversion, the Golden Hawks spread the formation out. RJ Weiss took the snap and lofted a pass over the top to Mason Nagle to expand the River Dell lead to 28-0.
In the third quarter, Ramsey finally got on the scoreboard with a two-yard touchdown pass combined with a two-point conversion pass to trim the deficit to 28-8.
Head Coach Mike Aliano on RJ Weiss and development of River Dell Golden Hawks quarterbacks, "RJ definitely puts in the work, we have meetings three to four times a week and I make sure the freshman go to that and are involved in the quarterback room and see and hear different opinions from the older kids." "It's good to see different perspectives and ideas."
"Coach(DJ) Nimphius has a put a lot of work in with the quarterbacks, eventually he wants to give them the keys to the car and we have a had a lot of good quarterbacks come through the program." "Coach Nimphius spends a lot of time and energy with them and it shows."
Ramsey finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter with a two-yard touchdown pass combined with a two-point conversion pass to trim the deficit to 28-8.
However, the highlight reel moment of the game occurred on the next Golden Hawks offensive series. At the 45-yard line, RJ Weiss took the snap and launched a pass to Mason Nagle in stride. Nagle raced down the right side of the field into the end zone. Spread out on the two-point conversion attempt, RJ Weiss took the snap and steamrolled ahead into the end zone on a running play to widen the margin to 36-14.
Mason Nagle on the touchdown pass from RJ Weiss, "We had a great call on that play, it was third and long and I got separation and RJ threw a great pass." "He had enough time to stay in the pocket because of how the offensive line good protection on the play."
Despite the Rams scoring late in the fourth quarter as well as adding the two-point conversion River Dell cruised to the 36-14 win to improve to 8-0 on the season.
"It's always good to get out of the gates and start well, Head Coach Mike Aliano stated. "As the game progressed, we had a lot of hiccups here and there." "We're trying to rotate kids in and out and all over the place and into different positions." "Just trying to get them playing time, and we don't always get it right, unfortunately, and you give up points here and there, but we were sound enough to finish the game."
"There is not one unsung hero on our team and we try to spread the ball all around the place and get it to different people." "You never know when your number is going to be called."
This upcoming Saturday, the Golden Hawks attempt to finish off the season undefeated at 9-0 at River Dell High School. Initially scheduled to play Paramus, River Dell will instead square off against Clifton, with kickoff slated for 9:00 a.m.
Mason Nagle on the key to a win over Clifton and experience of playing River Dell High School freshman football this season, "We need a good week of practice and it's been great being a part of the team." "It's so much different because all of our teammates are our friends and been friends for a long time and playing together since we were in third and fourth grade." "We're getting the work done in practice because we have great connections and that's a big part."
Head Coach Mike Aliano at the opportunity to finish the season undefeated, "We have had meetings and I talked to the freshman group." "It's another game but there's a lot riding on it and emphasis we put on it." "One of our goals in the beginning of the season just like any other games was we have to get better throughout the week." It's always good to have 25 plus kids on the freshman team, and you don't see that too often and any more.
"We watched film of the game against Ramsey and on one of the captions I wrote that's all the varsity kids, you matter." "It's a big thing when you see all the varsity kids on the sidelines cheering for the younger kids and makes them feel important."
"The older kids care about what the result is, and I have the varsity kids e-mailing me on Friday night asking what time the freshman game is, and I got to make it there." "They care about the program when they leave; they care about what comes up and what happens next." That's where the support comes in, the parents are great, and the kids are even better.