ORADELL, NJ – The football season ended for Sparta on Friday night with a loss to River Dell 28-21. The Spartans traveled to Oradell Friday night to play River Dell under the lights for the North Jersey, Section 1 Group Three Semi Final game.
The two teams faced each other for the past three years in the post season. Back in 2012 Sparta ended River Dell’s season in the semi- final round. In 2013 and 2014 Sparta defeated River Dell in Giants Stadium for the State title.
Sparta scored in their first possession. The first play went for 56 yards. Alex Miliken crossed the goal line three plays later. With Andrew Flockhart’s extra point Sparta was first on the board with 7.
The Spartans would not find the endzone again until the fourth quarter. The halftime score was 14-7 with the Hawks ahead. By the end of the third quarter River Dell had widened the gap to 28-7. But Sparta was not finished. The defense that had been a key to Sparta’s season long success dug in and held River Dell.
Halfway through the fourth Miliken scored again as he launched over the middle to get into the endzone. Flockhart was good for the extra point.
Sparta took advantage of recovering the onside kick, scoring again on that possession with an 11 yard throw to Robert Gennat. Sparta got the ball one more time but could not get past the Hawks defense, getting stopped on River Dell’s 40.
River Dell simply ran out the clock and not only secured their third shot at a State title but got their coach, DJ Nimphius 100 career win.
On the Sparta sidelines, some players were emotional, some were stoic but sportsmanship was the name of the game. On the field as the reality of the end of the game set in, players in white and blue congratulated those in gold and black with handshakes and hugs as the clock ticked down.
In the traditional post-game huddle coach Frank Marciano told the players “Right now I’m just as proud of you guys as I was of the guys who won the whole thing last year. You guys showed class… Listen, losing is part of life. Losing stinks, we know it stinks, but it’s a life lesson. Sometimes things just don’t go your way. You’re going to take the memory of football with you for the rest of your life.” He finished, “I’m proud of you…As you walk off the field, chins up man, chins up.”