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Sunil Sunder Raj

High School Sports

Ramapo extends winning streak to 18 games

Riding a 17 game winning streak, the Ramapo Raiders (5-0) knew that extending the streak to 18 in a row would not be an easy task facing off against a rival in the River Dell Golden Hawks (3-2). On an absolutely glorious fall Saturday with golden sunshine, deep blue skies and cool winds at River Dell High School both teams’ battled fiercely for four quarters.

Ramapo’s defense made an immediate statement in the first quarter stopping the River Dell offense on fourth and one at the Raiders 37-yard line. Feeding off that momentum, junior quarterback Charles DePrima (9 of 16 176 yards, 16 carries for 70 yards) went to work connecting on a 39-yard pass to junior wide receiver Sean Clapp. Facing a fourth and two at the Golden Hawks 17, DePrima hit junior wide receiver Max Kucharski for 12 yards. DePrima did the rest from there maneuvering out of the pocket and scampering into the end zone for the touchdown with six minutes left.

After the teams’ exchanged trading punts, it was River Dell senior quarterback Mike Sirico (8 for 12 111 yards, 16 rushes for 61 yards) turn to orchestrate a clock eaten 17-play 85-yard drive that chewed up almost nine minutes of the clock between the two plus minutes of the first quarter and six minutes of the second quarter including converting two fourth down plays. Sirico finished off the drive by back-pedaling out of the pocket and sprinting towards the right corner of the end zone for the score.

The Raiders offense responded quickly with DePrima engineering an 11-play 70 drive that took almost four minutes of the clock. On third and one at the Golden Hawks 33-yard line, DePrima found Kucharski for 16 yards. Turning the ball over to senior running back Jake Tirone (18 carries for 88 yards) who churned out one play after another, including plowing ahead for a five-yard touchdown with less than two minutes remaining.

Receiving the second half kickoff, River Dell came out firing on all cylinders by employing some trickery on a lateral pass with Sirico tossing a pass to Jack Gillies who in turn aired out a 37-yard pass to Joe Mellet. Sirico utilized his arm strength heaving a 33-yard pass to Mellet on second down. Facing a third and goal at the seven, Sirico displayed his elusiveness once again on the ground finding an open space into the end zone. However, a botched extra point had Ramapo up in the game. 

With the River Dell home crowd making their presence known, the Raiders offense did not seem phased managing to move the ball down the field swiftly mixing up the running and passing game. Facing a fourth and one at the Golden Hawks 41, DePrima attempted the QB keeper but was stuffed for a three-yard loss. Bolstered by the huge defensive stop, the River Dell offense pounded the rock with all running plays that advanced the ball down to the Ramapo 37 but the Raiders defense held again stopping Sirico short of the first down marker.

“When you play a team 10 times in five years, the two teams’ know each other well and as always River Dell came prepared and gave us a heck of a battle, tremendously well-coached and tough,” said Ramapo Head Coach Drew Gibbs. “Sirico had an outstanding game and gave us a tough time. We struggled tackling him in open spaces and played exceptionally well and kept the game close.”

Taking possession of the ball with about a minute and half left in the third quarter, it took just five plays and 1:46 for Tirone to score his second touchdown of the game bursting off the left side of the line and into the end zone for a 13-yard score seven seconds into the fourth quarter making it a 21-13 game.

“The offensive line did a great job, a big rivalry and you knew there would be plenty of hitting,” said Jake Tirone. “We had to make some halftime adjustments and just about doing your job. The momentum swings were on third downs and keeping the offense on the field. We love hard-nosed games, hitting, talking and smacking. The atmosphere was great, fans either with or against us and love it and Coach Gibbs runs a good ship and we’re always prepared and an amazing coach.”

Diving back into the trickery bag on a fourth and 10 at the Ramapo 49, River Dell attempted a fake punt pass but the ball was just short of the first down sticks forcing a turnover on downs. Looking to widen the advantage DePrima launched a deep pass down the field but Jason Berzon leaped in front of the wide receiver for the interception.

That play lit a spark under the Golden Hawks offense with Sirico completing a 17-yard pass to Joe Mellet. With a personal foul assessed against the Ramapo defense moved the ball to the Raiders 31-yard line. Back-to-back running plays from Mike Mellett and Sirico pushed the ball to the three. 

A fourth and goal from the six-yard Sirico wreaked havoc on the ground spinning out of the pocket and managing to glide inside of the right pylon for his third score of the contest. Going for the two-point conversion Sirico tried to work his magic once again but it was senior defensive lineman Adam Ayoub that made the highlight reel play blasting through the line and tackling Sirico to the ground. 

With four and half minutes still left in the game and ball a the 20-yard line, DePrima gained 32 yards on the ground while throwing a 11 yard pass to Kucharski that pushed the ball deep into River Dell territory and sealing the 21-19 win.

“The defense has played well for us all year,” Gibbs said. “We played our goal line option there and Adam made a great play. You find yourself in a four-quarter game and the key is keeping your poise and what you need to do. We needed a test like this and passed the test in the fourth quarter. We talked to the guys about whether it’s making an offensive play or defensive stop.”

“When two teams’ are playing each other it usually comes down to somebody making plays in the last two minutes. Charles (DePrima) with his scrambling and running ability was really a difference maker today and creating on the run and on the move and number of conversions outside of the pocket. Our offense ability to drive the football, execute on the part and make the stop on the last play.”

“Adam (Ayoub) is new to the program this year and we’re really fortunate to pick him up as a senior. He transferred from Wayne Hills last year, had not played for a couple of years and really happy to have him and doing a great job.”

Adam Ayoub on the victory, “If it was not for my team I would have not made that play. I needed to shoe up the ball and shoot right through that gap to make the play. We worked hard in the off-season and now every single week and come together and say we have to play as hard as we can every game and no matter how much you are up by. We knew it would be a tough game and came out swinging and happy we came out with the win.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Sunil is the Rockland Boulders Beat Writer for DoubleGSports.com and also covers North Jersey High School Sports
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