River Dell’s defense rose to the challenge to defeat Northern Highlands, 7-3. In the first half, they forced a field goal after first-and-goal from the 3. In the second half, they created three turnovers and made two other key stops – all after big plays.
First Quarter: After the first three possessions resulted in punts, River Dell took over on their 48. They picked up first downs on runs by Christian Hay and Mike Mellet to the 26. With fourth-and-7 on the 23, Hay completed a pass to a leaping Mellet, who went past a defender in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Second Quarter: Midway through the quarter, Highlands drove into River Dell territory. Enzo Arjona found Will Dreyer for 20 yards and Nick Branca ran 8 yards to the 7. The Highlanders had a first-and-goal on the 3, but settled for a 22-yard field goal attempt, as the River Dell defense stiffened. Andrew Haas’ attempt was good, but a penalty moved the ball back five yards and Haas delivered again, a 27-yarder, to make it 7-3 with two minutes left.
Third Quarter: On the first drive, punter Jesse Henderson threw a pass to Ethan Kupfer for a first down, but Kupfer fumbled and Highlands recovered on their 35. They gained momentum when Arjona went 23 yards to the 37, but Jason Berzon intercepted in the end zone off a deflection to end that drive. River Dell moved to the 50 for a first down, but a pair of penalties pushed them back to the 30 and the Hawks ended up punting.
Fourth Quarter: Northern Highlands faced a fourth-and-1 on their 29 and went for it, as Arjona gained 41 yards to the 30. But River Dell’s defense held strong and Highlands punted with River Dell taking over on the 6. On the following Highlands drive, Joey Chirurgi went 31 yards to the 33, but they later fumbled with River Dell recovering. Again, Highlands moved into River Dell territory on a 23-yard pass to Langan to the 35, but a high snap on the following play was recovered by River Dell with four minutes left. The Hawks punted on third down and Highlands had the ball on their 20. Arjona found Langan again for 25 yards, but a sack by Gabriel Case moved the ball back ten yards and the Highlanders ended up punting with 1:50 left. On third down, Mellet picked up the necessary yards for a first down and the Hawks went into their victory formation to run out the clock.
Conclusion: The story of the game was River Dell’s defense, who kept rising to the challenge when Northern Highlands threatened. They forced a field goal on first-and-goal and those were the only points they allowed and the difference in the game. On five occasions in the second half, they responded after giving up big plays. Among the top performers were Brendan Walker and Brett Dimasso.
The Highlands defense was also stellar. They only allowed seven points and that is enough to win games, especially against River Dell. Their offense had opportunities, but they were unable to take advantage of them. But in the end, River Dell had something to do with that.