Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Nimphius a Visionary

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Nimphius a Visionary

Article excerpt

Denis Nelson can't recall the exact specifics of D.J. Nimphius' plan.

He does remember, however, being highly impressed back in 2004 when Nimphius interviewed for the head football coaching job at River Dell.

"He already had everything mapped out," the River Dell athletic director said Tuesday. "Not only for that year, but for years beyond. He had such a vision and that's really what stood out. Not only in terms of what would go on the next three months, but the next six months, the next year, two years. Then upon his hire, he started implementing that plan right away."

And the Golden Hawks haven't looked back since.

It took four seasons for Nimphius and River Dell to break through, and in 2007 the program captured a state championship with an undefeated 12-0 mark. That title ended a 20-year drought.

The Golden Hawks have since qualified for the playoffs in each ensuing year. They've advanced at least one round and reached six finals while competing in North 1, Group 2, and North 1, Group 3.

Friday night marks the 10th straight postseason appearance for River Dell under Nimphius, tied with Paramus - the Golden Hawks' first-round opponent in North 1, Group 3 - for the longest active streak among North Jersey public schools.

Stability and consistency are now synonymous with River Dell, "a true testament" to Nimphius, Nelson said. And the proof is in the numbers. In the last nine seasons, the Golden Hawks have gone 16-8 in the playoffs.

"Certainly in that stretch there have been years with a few injuries," said Nelson, whose football program is on pace for its highest single-season point output, averaging 36.9 points per game with a roster featuring junior quarterback David Estevez, but few other returning starters.

"But to D.J.'s credit, he always has his team so well prepared no matter what. Guys just come in and play well. I think the 10-year mark is really a credit to D.J. and his staff in terms of what they do all the time, not just in season, but out of season, too.

"Clearly, they've gotten us to a point where the culture and expectations are that we're going to be a playoff team every year and win our fair share of games. D.J. is extremely hardworking and an extremely competitive person. That has rubbed off on the kids."

Paramus has a similarly rich recent tradition to uphold.

The program hasn't had as much postseason success as River Dell, going 9-9 with two state final appearances, but it's an accomplish in itself to qualify for the playoffs for an entire decade. The program had qualified for the playoffs just once from 1958 to 2006.

The Spartans seemingly have avoided the ebbs and flows that come with the territory of many North Jersey public schools.

Paramus athletic director Don Roll had a conversation with team captains about that very topic before the team's showdown against NV/ Demarest in the team's final game before the state cutoff. A win would secure their 10th straight trip to the playoffs. A loss would put that in jeopardy.

"We were just talking and these kids want to keep the success that we've had going," Roll said of a midweek talk with captains Brian Bonino, Albert Mobilio, Emil LaMarca and Fred Hager. "They've been around this program since they were little kids. You saw how geared in they were for that Demarest game, knowing what was at stake.''

Paramus won, 40-31, and earned the No. 7 seed.

"It was just like they weren't going to lose that game. They didn't want to be the senior class that didn't make it. There's a legacy here left by the older kids who they look up to. They started that legacy and nobody wants to be the one that ends it."

Sidebar:

North 1, Group 3 playoff preview

No. 8 NV/Demarest (5-4)at No. 1 Sparta (9-0), Friday, 7 p.m.

Story line: The Norsemen will be making the eighth playoff appearance in program history and second in the last three years. Thanks in large part to its 4-1 start, including an upset win over Ramapo on Sept. …

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