River Dell overwhelms Pascack Valley in North 1, Group 3 first round by Greg Tartaglia of The Record
ORADELL — River Dell was good enough to overcome its mistakes, and its next stop in the playoffs will be right up the road.
The No. 3 seed Golden Hawks weathered three early turnovers and six first-half penalties to blank No. 6 Pascack Valley, 42-6, in Friday’s North 1, Group 3 football opener.
River Dell (7-2) will travel to No. 2 Paramus in the sectional semifinals. The SFC Patriot Gold rivals met two weeks ago in Oradell, when the Spartans clinched the division title with a 20-13 win.
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What it means
The possibility remains, should they keep winning, for the Golden Hawks to have three rematches in the state playoffs. They had beaten Pascack Valley in the regular season, 38-21, en route to a sweep that allowed them to keep the “Rumble for the Rail” trophy.
The so-called “Battle of Midland Ave” between River Dell and Paramus will have a Round 2, likely next Friday, and the winner goes to the sectional final.
“We want another shot at them,” Golden Hawks linebacker Matt Froonjian said. “We’ll enjoy this one right now, but we’ve got to get back to work, and we’ll be ready.”
Top seed Ramapo, which reached the semis on the other side of the bracket, edged River Dell in overtime on Sept. 28.
On fourth-and-1 at their own 48 late in the first quarter, the Golden Hawks used some sleight of hand. Quarterback Jack Gillies handed off to Dave Fletcher, who immediately threw a pop pass to an uncovered Matt McHale, which the tight end took for a 52-yard touchdown.
“We had been practicing that all week,” Gillies said of the play that gave his team a 14-0 lead. “Coach [DJ Nimphius] said that Pascack Valley ran that a couple years ago, and he saw it … he always says, ‘The other team’s best play, they can’t stop it, so let’s run it’.”
By the numbers
► River Dell’s first two drives ended each on the second play with an interception and a fumble, respectively. The team got to a third play on the third drive, and Fletcher ran for a 42-yard score.
► Three different Golden Hawks threw a touchdown pass. Besides Fletcher, Gillies had a 24-yarder to Jack Racine, and Mike Sirico tossed a 40-yarder to Fletcher.
► Pascack Valley’s first-team offense managed only two first downs, one of which came via penalty. The Golden Hawks smothered the Indians’ air attack, recording four sacks and allowing 13 yards on 2-of-14 pass completions.
► Fletcher ran 20 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns and added two catches for 47 yards and a TD.
► Froonjian finished with 10 tackles and 1½ sacks for a defense that held Pascack Valley’s starters to 37 yards of offense.
They said it
“We’re explosive. We can move the ball, we’re pretty tough on defense, but we’ve got to do better,” said Nimphius, adding that the impetus for the Golden Hawks to clean up their miscues “will be fresh in their minds Sunday morning at 8 o’clock [the team’s next practice]. I guarantee you that.”