River Dell proves too much to handle for Indians

Pascack Valley falls back to .500


Thomas Betsy

Quarterback Stephen Begen (12) fakes a handoff to the running back.

BJ McGrane and Spencer Goldstein

Game Recap:

The Pascack Valley defense has struggled all season stopping opponents who feature spread offenses and a dual-threat quarterback. On Friday night, that trend continued, as the Indians fell back to .500 with a 38-21 loss in River Dell.

River Dell found success in the passing game early and often, getting on the board with a touchdown pass on its first offensive possession. River Dell quarterback Mike Sirico routinely beat the Indians’ pass defense with completion after completion.

At times, the Indians looked poised to make a statement, as the defense got solid pressure in the Hawks backfield. The Valley defense recovered two River Dell fumbles, but it was not enough. Facing a high-powered offensive attack, they were unable to finish plays when it mattered most.

“I thought our guys were in position to make a lot of plays, but we just didn’t make tackles,” Coach Len Cusumano said. “Give credit to River Dell, they had the opportunities to make plays and they did.”

Both teams rotated scores for most of the opening 24 minutes, until the Hawks scored the final ten points of the half, including a 31-yard field goal with under 10 seconds remaining. At halftime, the Hawks led 24-14.

The score remained unchanged after a scoreless third quarter, but River Dell was able to pull away in the fourth. Sirico found running back Dave Fletcher on a 19-yard touchdown pass, making it 31-14. Valley bounced back with a 20-yard touchdown scramble by quarterback Stephen Begen, but the Indians weren’t able to get anything going after that.

Begen had another solid game for the Indians after throwing two touchdowns last week, completing six of 13 passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. He also added 36 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Special teams had a strong impact on the outcome of the game as Stephen Soravilla returned a kickoff for a touchdown on Valley’s first offensive possession. River Dell had multiple productive returns, including a touchdown and another would-be punt return touchdown that was eventually called back due to a penalty. River Dell was able to start most of its drives with good field position.

“Every single game is a field position battle,” Cusumano said. “When you’re playing a very competitive team that understands what to do with that field position, it’s tough to get out of certain holes.”

Stars of the Game:

Despite the loss, a few players stood out for the Indians. Stephen Soravilla recovered a fumble to go along with his kick return touchdown. Desmond Von Tobel recovered a fumble as well, while also recording a sack and catching a 22-yard pass from Begen for a touchdown.

River Dell got productive games from two quarterbacks. Jack Gillies got the start and threw for 54 yards and a touchdown, while Sirico completed 10 of 17 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Fletcher totaled 189 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries and six receptions.

What’s to Come:

The road doesn’t get any easier for Valley next week. Pascack Valley (3-3) will host Ramapo (7-0), the No.1 team in North Jersey and the No. 5 team in the state. The Raiders are coming off a 38-22 victory against Wayne Hills. The Indians faced Ramapo twice last season, with the first matchup resulting in a 44-8 loss. In the first round of the North 1, Group 3 playoffs, the two teams met once again.  While the Indians had a 16-13 lead at the half, they were unable to hold on, ultimately falling 47-16.

“We’re gonna get back to work, and get ready for a home game against Ramapo,” Cusumano said.