River Dell blanks rival Ramsey in semis
After having its season end in bitter disappointment against Ramsey for two straight years, River Dell wanted revenge, right?
Well, not exactly.
“Revenge is just an emotion,” Golden Hawks coach D.J. Nimphius stated, “and it doesn’t do you any good in preparing for this game. It’s just about confidence.”
Possessing an abundance of confidence was more than enough in the North 1 Group 2 semifinals on Friday night, though, as No. 3 River Dell used a strong defensive showing to dismantle its rival, 20-0, and punch its tickets to the sectional championship game at MetLife Stadium in two weeks.
Ryan Duran and Ryan Callahan each recorded two interceptions and the Golden Hawks held No. 2 Ramsey to just 94 yards of total offense en route to solidifying its sixth trip to the finals.
“It’s good. We’re right where we expected to be,” Nimphius said. “We played great. Ramsey is a great team and they have nothing to be ashamed of. Even though we’re a three-seed, we’re a great team. Everyone is excited.”
In 2009, River Dell fell to Ramsey in the title game and then failed to get by the same foe last season in the semifinal. Talk about unfinished business.
On this chilly night away from their home turf, the Golden Hawks made a resounding statement: even a No. 3 seed can be the most feared team in a bracket.
On September 23, River Dell blanked Ramsey, 31-0, in a regular-season matchup to set the tone for this contest. Since that setback, however, the Rams never wilted. They rattled off seven straight wins and gained a lot of momentum by upending Hopatcong, 35-6, in the first round last weekend.
It just so happens that momentum wasn’t strong enough to cut through the stifling River Dell defense, which has now surrendered just 35 combined points over the last five games.
Halting Ramsey’s talented skills players – led by fleet-footed quarterback Nick Dispoto and running back Dejan Adair – paved the way for the Golden Hawks once again.
After engaging in a scoreless first quarter, River Dell finally broke through with 7:51 remaining in the second as Callahan returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown. With 1:48 left in the session, Duran scored from 24 yards out to double the advantage.
“We did a great job driving the ball,” quarterback Tim Barnes said. “The line was great and I was just following them.”
Barnes, who finished with 54 passing yards and 58 rushing yards, sealed the triumph with a 29-yard rushing score with 7:19 remaining in the fourth.
Since No. 1 West Essex thumped No. 4 Lenape Valley in the other semifinal, River Dell is well aware of the obstacle ahead. But it’s nothing a little confidence can’t handle.
Contact Brian Fitzsimmons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter