Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Resilient River Dell Rolls On

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Resilient River Dell Rolls On

Article excerpt

MAHWAH -- Offense, defense, special teams, it was River Dell football at its finest.

The Golden Hawks, seeded fifth, got six sacks, ran and passed flawlessly and recovered a crucial lob kickoff in the second quarter en route to dominating previously unbeaten Mahwah, 38-13, on Friday night and earn a spot in the North 1, Group 3 final in two weeks.

The victory put the exclamation point on the turnaround for a Golden Hawks team that once was 1-3.

"Obviously, from 1-3, that was the worst start in River Dell, no one ever started 1-3 at River Dell and made the playoffs and now we made the finals," said River Dell quarterback Pat McPartland, who ran for two touchdowns and threw for another. "I'm speechless. I don't know what else to tell you."

Top-seeded Mahwah defeated the Golden Hawks earlier in the season, 20-7, and its defense had been tremendous all fall, but Friday night, a cavalcade of running backs, led by Max Cepeda, Dylan Connolly and Chris Mellusi sliced up the Thunderbirds inside and outside.

River Dell always seemed one step ahead of Mahwah, and after the game, it chalked it up to better execution and more time to prepare.

"We had a full week to prepare this time," said River Dell Coach DJ Nimphius. "Last time, we played them with four days' rest. We had a Sunday game last time and then a Friday night. We did a good job defensively last time, offensively, starting with me, we were awful the last time we played them."

"We had more time to practice definitely," said Golden Hawks senior running back Max Cepeda. "We focused more on what we could do better, and, if they could stop it, they could stop it, but we didn't think they could. We ran our best stuff against them."

The tone was set in a wild and exciting first half as both coaches dipped into their sizable bags of tricks. The Golden Hawks utilized reverses and double handoffs, and recovered a lob onside kick, when Musashi Nagai's delivery spun backward at the Thunderbirds' 38 and was recovered by Jake Fletcher.

Nimphius was asked about the play and whether it was a lucky bounce.

"It wasn't an onside kick, it was just a lob kick, we played without our kicker, he was hurt," he said. …

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