Valley conquered by Ramapo in season opener

Raiders come out on top in 2019 championship rematch


Matt Austin

Mike Solazzo makes a move on a Ramapo defender. He finished with 86 rushing yards in Valley’s 41-6 loss to the Raiders.

Spencer Goldstein, Editor in Chief

Since Pascack Valley’s 28-23 loss to Ramapo in last year’s North 1, Group 3 championship, a lot has changed.

Three-year starting quarterback Stephen Begen graduated. As did three-year starting running back Jake Williams. Not to mention several other 2019 seniors who played a significant role in Valley’s success last year.

Hell, the team even retired its mascot. 

So as the clock ticked down on Valley’s 41-6 loss at the hands of Ramapo to open up the 2020 season on Friday night, it became apparent that the team’s lack of experience – specifically on offense – is an obstacle that can only be tackled by more reps as the season goes on.

However, that doesn’t mean Head Coach Len Cusumano sees it as any sort of excuse.

“We’re not making excuses for anybody,” Cusumano said. “We have to get [the players] better. It’s on me, it’s on our coaches – we have to get our guys better.”

The game started tight, with the teams trading two scoreless possessions apiece before a 44-yard scramble by Ramapo senior quarterback Charles DePrima set up a 7-yard touchdown run by halfback Rich Sica. That would serve as an accurate foreshadowing of what was to come, as DePrima’s rushing production was the difference-maker for the Raiders, who entered the night on a 26-game winning streak dating back to 2018.

Following three straight punts between the two teams, DePrima broke away for a 45-yard touchdown run to put Ramapo up 14-0 – and the Raiders did not look back. DePrima finished with 160 rushing yards and two touchdowns – his second rushing touchdown coming on a 25-yard run – with 153 of those yards, as well as both scores, coming in the first half. He also added 64 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

“[DePrima is a] tremendous player,” Cusumano said. “We just have to go out there and make plays and wrap him up.”

DePrima did not do it all himself, as Sica took 15 carries for 105 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. Receivers Sean Clapp and Michael DenBlaker also caught touchdowns of their own.

A sack by junior Steven Demboski and an interception by senior David Jones were the two highlights for PV’s defense.

Offensively, turnovers were the story of the night for Valley. Between fumbles by junior running back Nick Messina and senior receiver John Supple, as well as two interceptions by senior quarterback Zach Traina – who was making his first career start at the varsity level – the unit was unable to gain momentum.

“You can’t turn over the ball in any game,” Cusumano said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. That is always a crucial [aspect of] any game.”

Valley’s only score came on a 20-yard touchdown run by Traina in the fourth quarter. He finished the night having completed eight of 17 passes for 36 yards to go along with 43 yards on the ground.

Perhaps one of the lone bright spots for Valley was senior running back Mike Solazzo. Primarily utilized as a change-of-pace back last year behind Williams, Solazzo took 20 carries for 86 yards in his debut as the team’s workhorse back.

While the team is disappointed with the game’s outcome, Cusumano stressed the importance of not getting hung up on one loss – especially with only a six game regular season due to COVID-19. 

“Anytime you lose it’s disappointing, no matter who you’re playing against,” Cusumano said. “We just have to get back to work tomorrow and get better.”

Valley will look to get into the win column next Saturday when it takes on Bergenfield, who is 1-0 after defeating Northern Valley Demarest 27-21 in its season opener Friday night. It will mark PV’s first matchup with Bergenfield since 2017, when the Bears edged out a 14-9 win in the regular season finale.

“[We just want to see] improvement,” Cusumano said. “Getting more consistent every single week and just continuing to get better and better. This is a new situation for everybody [in terms of COVID-19 regulations] so we have to adjust and adapt.”