The loss of key players can do one of two things to a team; sometimes it can break spirits and sink a season, but sometimes when it galvanizes a group, Cinderella stories tend to unfold before our eyes.
Since the starting quarterback Tim Barnes went down back in Week 2 Ryan Duran has been something of a savior for River Dell and on Friday night he put together another fantastic two-way performance in a 35-0 Golden Hawks win.
“It’s nice but I’d rather have those guys in there,” Duran said of his newfound success and subsequent fame at quarterback. “I’m doing my best but those guys are irreplaceable both as players and teammates.”
In a game that determined the top seed in North 1, Group 3 Duran lead a squad without its quarterback and arguably best two-way player in Kevin Barry to the best win of the season over previously 6-1 Ramsey.
In the absence of Barnes and Barry, Duran would dominate every facet of the game for the Golden Hawks. The senior continued his rock solid play under center playing turnover-free football and helped ignite River Dell on defense and special teams to boot.
Duran’s passing ability was something of a question because DJ Nimphius had not asked his general to put it in the air much to this point. But against rival Ramsey No. 7’s passing ability was unveiled in a big way.
Showing touch and accuracy on both short and long passes Duran carved up the Rams D to the tune of 7 of 13 for 100 yards in the first half. As per usual, the senior also led the way on the ground for the Golden Hawks and finished with 17 carries for 98 yards and a pair of scores.
The only Ramsey drive that reached River Dell’s side of the 50 in the first half would be short circuited by none other than Duran -- who made a great break on a Nick Dispoto pass to come up with a big pick.
“I like being a guy who gets to do a lot of things and I definitely don’t like to come off the field much so I’m really happy I’ve been able to help in so many ways,” said Duran.
After capping the game’s opening drive of 65 yards with a 1-yard TD plunge, Duran would extend River Dell’s lead with a 12-yard rushing strike off the heels of a beautiful 35-yard completion to Christian Desanctis.
On the drives where River Dell couldn’t move the ball it was Barnes who did well to consistently change field position, often backing the Rams up deep in their own end.
End of half touchdowns can be a huge influence on a game’s momentum and Duran would assure Ramsey no points after his offense stalled near midfield. Duran nailed a perfect punt that came to rest just inside the Ramsey one yard line creating a 99-yard field to traverse with just over two minutes on the clock.
“He’s as good an all-around high school football player as you’re going to pay admission to watch play,” Nimphius said of Duran. “He can throw the ball, kick the ball, he can tackle, he can run the ball -- there’s nothing he can’t do on a football field. Really a special athlete that we would be lost without.”
Carrying a 14-0 lead River Dell continued to roll in the second half and would begin to ice the game on a 45-yard Andrew Tummino touchdown run that made it 28-0.
River Dell’s defense -- as it would all game -- continued to stifle the Rams offensive attack, which was never able to sustain a drive into the red zone. Anthony Nastasi's 4-yard plunge served as the icing for River Dell’s eighth-straight win in 2012.
“We had to recreate ourselves after the losses we sustained so early in the season but we’re still a some of our parts, some guys just needed to elevate their games starting with the defense and they really have,” said Nimphius. “The guys who are out have become coaches that really help us out tremendously.”
Kevin Barry has become the team’s de facto graduate assistant and even dressed in full uniform on senior night to accompany his teammates out for the coin toss. Dedication to the cause is the highest order of business for the Golden Hawks and it has been a key ingredient to the continued success.
“It’s been miserable,” said Nimphius of having to watch players miss their senior seasons. “I’ve missed a lot of sleep feeling awful that those two kids haven’t had a chance to play; they’re great kids who work hard and love football and deserved this season. Now we have to go honor that by trying to play like they would have.”
Contact John Quirk at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @QuirkMedia