Indians edged out by Ramapo in nail-biter

Raiders claim second consecutive state sectional title

Willy Higgins and Mason Baronian

Valley started off the game hot, but its first half success wasn’t enough to win as the Indians fell to Ramapo 28-23 in the North 1, Group 3 sectional championship on Friday night.

The Indians’ defense got off to a solid start, forcing a three-and-out on Ramapo’s opening drive. The offense then got on the board immediately after on a 50-yard rushing touchdown by senior Jake Williams on the first play of the drive.

However, Ramapo’s offense fired back quickly. Junior quarterback Charles DePrima completed a 15-yard pass to wide receiver Sean Clapp , followed by a 33-yard touchdown rush by senior running back Jake Tirone to tie the game at seven apiece. Later in the quarter, Tirone tacked on a 30-yard touchdown to give Ramapo a 14-7 lead.

Tirone was a large part of the Raiders’ success on both sides of the ball, as he accounted for three rushing touchdowns as well as the interception that would ultimately clinch the game for Ramapo. 

The Indians tied the game back up early in the second quarter on a 21-yard touchdown run by Williams that capped off a 75-yard drive. Following the score, Valley was able to get the job done on the other side of the ball as well, forcing a three-and-out that was largely in part due to a sack by senior Drew Carney on first down.

The Indians regained the lead on a 5-yard touchdown rush by Williams on the offense’s ensuing possession. It would be Williams’ third score of the game – and Valley’s last.

With time winding down in the first half, the Raiders marched all the way down to Valley’s 1-yard line, and it looked like they were going to tie the game going into halftime. But while Valley’s defense may have bent, it did not break as they stood Ramapo up at the goal line on three consecutive plays as the half came to an end. The Indians went into the half up 21-14 with momentum on their side.

Unfortunately for the Indians, the momentum wouldn’t carry over as Valley struggled to get anything going offensively in the second half. However, the defense continued to hold up until late in the third quarter when DePrima found Clapp for a 37-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21. 

Early in the fourth quarter, Valley’s offense got back to work, driving downfield and threatening to regain the lead. With about seven minutes to go in the game, the Indians faced a crucial 4th-and-1 on Ramapo’s 21-yard line. Quarterback Stephen Begen pitched the ball to Williams on the right side of the field, where he would be swarmed by Ramapo defenders and ultimately stopped short of the line of scrimmage. Ramapo took over possession at its 22-yard line to start a drive that would later prove to be pivotal towards the game’s outcome.

The Raiders marched down the field, making no mistakes, and eventually ended up inside Valley’s 10-yard line – similarly to their drive late in the first half. This time, however, Ramapo was able to find the endzone on a run by Tirone and take its first lead since early in the second quarter. 

With three minutes to go and the team trailing 28-21, Valley’s offense was presented with its most important drive of the season. The drive started off slow but a 12-yard completion to senior wide receiver Craig Moorehead on 4th down helped Valley move into Ramapo territory. After a short gain and a controversial non-call on a potential defensive pass interference, Begen took a deep shot intended for senior wide receiver Jake Ciocca. The pass would be intercepted by Tirone, sealing the game for Ramapo as they were able to run the clock all the way down to five seconds. Facing a fourth down with five seconds still on the clock, DePrima ran the ball out of the back of the endzone for a safety to prevent a potential miracle by Valley, thus punching Ramapo’s ticket to the North, Group 3 championship at MetLife Stadium.

While Valley wasn’t able to achieve its ultimate goal, the team exceeded the expectations of many and had its most successful season of Len Cusumano’s head coaching tenure. The Indians concluded the 2019 season with a 6-2 regular season record to go along with a 2-1 mark in postseason play.