RAMAPO, NJ - The alumni had returned, because, after all, this was the week Wayne Hills would play Ramapo in varsity football. It’s one of the best gridiron rivalries in New Jersey, and that reputation held its course on Oct. 18, when Ramapo remained undefeated with a scintillating 35-28 overtime win over Wayne Hills, in Franklin Lakes.

Wayne Hills leads the all-time series with Ramapo, which began in 1972, 30-22-1. Ramapo won at home, against Hills, for the first time since 2003. It was also the first time the Raiders had beaten the Patriots in consecutive seasons since 2003 and 2004.

Read about the rivalry here. Five Patriots and Raiders, who once starred in high school, went on to the NFL. 

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Wayne Hills head coach Wayne Demikoff had promised his team it would find its heartbeat on the field with a hard-fought effort at Ramapo.

“You gave it your all,” Demikoff told a disappointed group of players after the game. “That’s all we, as coaches, can ask. You found your heartbeat tonight, and if you play like this the rest of the season, there’s no telling what you can do.”

Demikoff has been a part of the rivalry with Ramapo since 1999. In fact, the first game he coached in against the Raiders also went to overtime, as Hills won, 17-14. As a head coach, Demikoff is 3-3 against Ramapo, since 2014.

“Not every team has a rivalry like we have with Ramapo,” Demikoff reminded his players. “You’ll remember these games for the rest of your life. Give it all you have, and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish, both on the field, and in life.”

Early on, it looked like Ramapo (7-0) would dominate the game, as the Green Raiders opened a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter. But Wayne Hills (4-3) got its footing in the second quarter and cut the lead to 14-6 on a 5-yard run by Chris Brutofsky.

Ramapo responded on a long touchdown run, late in the first half, to extend its lead to 21-6, but Wayne Hills started to control the game when Dan Daly recovered a fumble, setting up a 32-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Michael Casasanta, which made it 21-13 at the half, after Jordan Thiel added the point-after.

“I thought we were starting to control the line of scrimmage late in the first half,” said Demikoff. “And when we tied it, we had some momentum. But you have to credit Ramapo, too. They’re undefeated for a reason.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Ramapo regained the lead, 28-21, but Hills responded late in regulation and tied it with 30 seconds left, on a pass from Casasanta to Dean Imparato.

Demikoff considered going for two points and the win, but opted for the game-tying point-after, which Thiel converted, sending the contest into overtime.

Casasanta’s 220 yards on the ground broke the Wayne Hills record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Jaaron Hayek had rushed for 167 in a win at Pascack Valley, in 2017. Casasanta also passed for 105 yards and Imparato accounted for 46 yards in receptions.

Brutofsky had another good game on the ground, with over 100 yards. The Patriots had over 400 yards of total offense while Ramapo exceeded 500 yards of offense.

On defense, Daly and Dan Gerard had 10 tackles each while Imparato had eight tackles.

A number of former Wayne Hills players had stopped by practice during the week and were in the pre-game locker room to encourage the current team. Hayek, a 2019 graduate, who is now playing at Villanova, reminded the players of the importance of playing Ramapo. He also recalled the late Lou Brandt, a former Hills player, who died shortly after last year’s Ramapo game, and Brandt’s love of Wayne Hills football.

Hayek’s teammate at Hills, Gabe Dellechiaie, was also on hand. Gabe is now playing at Montclair State.

Other former players also reminded the team of what it means to play in a rivalry of this magnitude, including Mike Massoud, a fullback and linebacker on the 2004, 2005 and 2006 Hills championship teams.

Assistant coach Mike Peischl, who quarterbacked the 2005 Patriots to an undefeated championship season, reminded the team that assistant coach, Anthony Giampapa, had just become a dad, earlier in the day, and that Anthony would be watching the game, from the hospital, on live stream, with his new son, also named Anthony, in tow.

“No one loves Wayne Hills football and this game more than Anthony,” said Peischl. “His son will be about 5 hours old, and Anthony will be explaining to him how big a game this is. That’s what this rivalry is all about.”

Sentiment aside, there’s another game scheduled this Friday.

“We have a big game coming up against Passaic Tech (on Oct. 25),” said Demikoff. “They’re a very good team. I think we found out something about ourselves tonight, even in defeat. We can use this, going forward, and have a really good end of the season.”

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Mike Lamberti is a freelance reporter and blogger who covers multiple sports in multiple towns. Visit his blog when you can: https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/ 

You can also find him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mike.lamberti.9 

Twitter @Cagey86