PV aims to come out on top in Saturday night “slugfest”

Valley takes on River Dell Saturday night


Matt Austin

Senior Mike Supple makes the catch in traffic against Ramapo. Valley will look to defeat River Dell on Saturday and move its record over .500.

BJ McGrane, Sports Editor

Pascack Valley will take on River Dell at home on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. (BJ McGrane)

This game is happening. That’s right, even with a positive COVID-19 case at Pascack Valley this week, its football team will shift its focus to a Saturday night matchup against River Dell.

Due to Valley following an all-remote schedule on Thursday and Friday, all extracurriculars were cancelled, leading to the game being postponed. The term “extracurricular” encompasses both practices and games, so Valley will also be prohibited from practicing in the days leading up to the contest.

At first glance, the lack of practice directly before a game might seem detrimental to the team. But head coach Len Cusumano thinks otherwise.

“It actually helps us a little bit,” Cusumano said. “It gets guys healed up a little bit from last week and through the week of practice.”

Whether or not the cancellation of practice is beneficial for PV is yet to be seen. What we do know is that River Dell will not have to deal with any of these circumstances. The Hawks are coming off a week in which they did what was seemingly impossible for teams over the last few seasons: beat Ramapo. River Dell came out on top over Ramapo by a score of 22-21 last Friday, snapping the Raiders’ 27 game winning streak and moving its own record to 2-0 on the season.

Cusumano and PV will look to learn from Ramapo’s loss to the Hawks and avoid making similar mistakes to those of the Raiders.

“We can’t just play one half of a game. We have to make sure we play the entire way,” Cusumano said. “If you play [only] one half, you can pay for it. It happened last week against Ramapo, where things didn’t go Ramapo’s way in the second half, and they ended up paying for it.”

Valley – currently sitting at a record of 1-1 on the season – will attempt to get back to its winning ways of the past, and seek to be over .500 after this Saturday’s contest. 

PV will aim to use a win over the Hawks to pick up its second win early in just a six-game regular season. In 2019, River Dell and Pascack Valley had a matchup with much higher stakes.

With the league championship on the line, River Dell fell victim to a late game touchdown by PV receiver Craig Moorehead, but responded with a touchdown drive of its own, highlighted by the heroics of then-senior quarterback Mike Sirico. After securing what was presumably the game-tying touchdown, the Hawks would miss the extra point, handing Valley the 20-19 win and the Patriot Gold League Championship.

So it’s safe to say River Dell remembers that one.

The matchup between Pascack Valley and River Dell presents some key storylines, including the lack of practice this week for PV, and a possible rivalry brewing. (BJ McGrane)

History has not always been on PV’s side in this matchup – dare I say rivalry? Prior to the league championship-crowing victory in 2019, Pascack Valley had its struggles against the Hawks.

In 2018, River Dell came out on top in both of its matchups against the green and white, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs. The Hawks had their way with PV in 2017 as well, edging out Valley in a 22-21 thriller.

“I think both teams are very understanding of what each team does, and what capabilities each team has,” Cusumano said. “[River Dell is] very well prepared. They’re coached very well. They’re scrappy, fast, tough, and physical kids, so we’re expecting a good old slugfest.”

It’s no secret that these two teams are very familiar with each other, but there’s no reason to assume there is any bad blood either. In our recently conducted rivalry poll – a survey that was sent out to PV students and faculty in order to figure out PV’s biggest rival – it was concluded that River Dell is only Valley’s fourth biggest rival.

But just like this is not the same Pascack Valley team as 2019, this is certainly not the same River Dell team from last year as well. Sirico, the Hawks’ signal-caller who made things happen both in and out of the pocked, graduated and has been replaced by Christian Hay, who threw for three touchdowns last week – one being a 75-yarder to Colin Quinn – and the game-winning two-point conversion.

So far this season, Pascack Valley has lived and died by its defense. In its season opener against Ramapo, Valley allowed 41 points en route to a loss against Ramapo. In last week’s win against Bergenfield, PV bounced back with five takeaways and allowed just 8 points all game.

“Any time our defense can get back the ball to our offense it’s a huge plus for us to gain that time of possession,” Cusumano said. “Causing turnovers, I think is huge for any football team. So, we improved on that last week so we want to see more improvement this week.”

With all of the circumstances that surround this matchup, Cusumano and Pascack Valley are concentrated on their own improvement and development each and every week.

“Our main concern and focus is to go 1-0 [this week],” Cusumano said. “We have to improve on our own play every week. How physical, how tough we are throughout the 48 minutes of a game.”