Estevez’s magic gives River Dell back-to-back state titles by Sean Farrell of The Record
EAST RUTHERFORD – What a way to go out.
The final show Dave Estevez put on at River Dell was as good as it gets.
Three rushing touchdowns. One passing. Two interceptions on defense and a forced fumble.
All under the bright lights at MetLife Stadium.
That’s why River Dell’s senior quarterback will keep the title he earned last season – state champion.
The Golden Hawks defended their North 1, Group 3 championship and avenged its only loss this season by defeating Ramapo, 28-7, in the final on Saturday night.
They became the first team in program history to win it in back-to-back seasons.
“It’s almost like a fairy tale ending,” Estevez said. “Getting a chance at my last high school game ever to come out and get a win, I’m speechless right now. Getting a chance to play in front of the whole community is awesome, with all my family and friends. It’s just a great feeling. I’m grateful to have that experience.”
Estevez was just about perfect.
He went 9-for-10 with 187 passing yards, ran for 98 more and came up with huge plays in crucial situations. That kept the ball away from the potent Ramapo offense, which entered the day averaging 36.6 points per game.
“He’s like a human video game,” junior Jack Racine said. “He’s never down. The play is never over with him. He can score on any play, any time he touches the ball.”
River Dell had to rebuild its lineup around Estevez this season.
There were 16 starters gone and only 10 seniors left on the roster. But the return of their leader made the Golden Hawks one of the hardest offenses to stop and earned them a fifth straight trip to the state final.
“He is the most versatile player,” coach D.J. Nimphius said. “The kid is graduating with over 7,000 yards of offense. And here’s the scary part. It’s almost right (even passing and rushing). You throw in his returns and he had double-digit interceptions. He’s a special dude.”
River Dell owned the first half, starting from the opening kickoff. The Golden Hawks began the game with a 15-play drive that took up almost a whole quarter. Their dual-threat quarterback converted three straight third downs and ran into the endzone from three yards out. By halftime, the Golden Hawks had 18:33 of possession time and a 133-82 advantage in yardage, while the Green Raiders had just three first downs.
“That first drive was huge,” said Racine, who had 132 receiving yards. “It set the tone of the game. We knew we needed to come out strong and we did. We chewed up clock and scored so it couldn’t have been better than that.”
The Golden Hawks built up their lead in the third quarter after Estevez intercepted Ramapo’s A.J. Wingfield and returned the ball near midfield. A few plays later, Estevez ran in for his second touchdown from a yard out.
River Dell (11-1) never let up.
Racine hauled in a 33-yard touchdown on a 4th down play, and Estevez scrambled in for the final score with 2:40 left and forced two late turnovers to put away the game.
“We just have guys with character who never quit,” Estevez said. “They just love the game.”