|VIDEO: River Dell runs into finals again by surging past Ramapo|
It is said that the keys to winning post-season football games are defense and the running game. In its North 1, Group III semifinal triumph, River Dell used that formula to perfection.
The Golden Hawks dominated the second half with long drives and key defensive plays en route to a 35-21 road win over Roxbury. The victory boosts River Dell into a sectional final for the fourth consecutive year; the Hawks have lost in each of the previous three finals.
Quarterback David Estevez led the River Dell running attack, carrying the ball 36 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Estevez guided two critical second-half drives that allowed the Golden Hawks to break out of a 21-21 halftime tie.
A 16-play, 87-yard march that spanned the third and fourth quarters put River Dell ahead. Ramapo then drove into Hawks' territory, but an interception by Jack Racine on a tipped ball ended that drive, and set up a 70-yard march that effectively put the game away.
Alec Lanza added a pair of touchdown runs for River Dell and also had a key kickoff return to set up a score. Nick Sirico added an interception and recovered a surprise onside kick in the first quarter that led to a touchdown.
Ramapo won the regular-season meeting between these two teams behind a big passing attack. But in this game the Green Raiders managed less than 100 passing yards and had two passes picked off.
Shane Brancaleone ran for 130 yards and a touchdown for second-seeded Ramapo. Tommy Jaten added a pair of short TD runs. Dan Diaz caught six passes for 68 yards.
Ramapo, which won seven of eight games coming into this sectional semifinal, finishes the season at 7-4.
Third-seeded River Dell also avenged its loss to Ramapo in last year's sectional final. The Golden Hawks will face #4 seed Old Tappan in the North 1, Group III sectional final at MetLife Stadium, Saturday, December 3 at 7:00 pm.
For sports video highlights of this New Jersey high school football state playoff semifinal game, click play in the box at left.