With four main starters sidelined with injury, the River Dell Golden Hawks (10-1) faced a tough loss against Sparta in the North 1 Group 3 semifinals, ending their undefeated season 36-15.
“It was a great run," senior Andrew Stengel said. "I know all the seniors are disappointed with the outcome of Friday’s game but I couldn’t have
asked for better guys to play on this team with. I will miss playing with
everyone on Friday nights, but I know the Hawks will grow from this and have a great season next year.”
The Spartans (9-1) started the game strong as quarterback Jake Melville came off the right side for a three-yard touchdown and then doubled the lead as Lucas Faria recovered a Hawks fumble for a 30-yard touchdown. John Coleman hit a 38-yard field goal early in the second quarter and Melville would connect with Teddy Fischer just before the end of the half on a 12-yard pass to lead the Spartans 23-0.
“I love this senior class, its tough not getting to play with all four of our captains at once but all the guys were great and it’ll definitely be a different atmosphere next season without them," junior Dylan Gramuglia said.
River Dell was stricken with injuries early in the season as Kevin Barry (knee) went down before the first game and quarterback Tim Barnes (leg) followed by mid-September. Fellow captains Ryan Duran and Austin Berninger led River Dell to the state tournament but were hurt in early November.
The Hawks looked to find a way out of the hole as Anthony Nastasi (one- yard run) and Dan Desiderio (10-yard catch) attempted to play catch up to the Spartans. Third-string quarterback found Bob Wapelhorst in the endzone for a two-point conversion and Ben Shapiro connected on a single extra point to finish out the game.
Sparta's Melville made an additional 26-yard rushing touchdown to secure the win 25-15.
Regardless of the ending score, the River Dell Golden Hawks Football Team still fly together.
“This is the impossible dream team, and the things that they were able to do-the kids sticking together, were great," head coach DJ Nimphius said.
Coach DJ Nimphius, as well as the rest of River Dell, has high hopes for the graduating seniors, and for the future Hawks.
Editor's Note: Isabella Congemi is a student in the River Dell High School Senior Options Program.