Ramapo Offense Tames the Darkness and Defeats Sparta

As the second quarter began, night descended upon Cassels Field in Sparta. Situated in a valley, the once mountainous scenery turned the field into a pit of darkness. A mosh pit of Sparta students poured out of the bleachers in a sea of white and noise. The constant play-by-play being broadcasted across the stadium made it feel like you were in an episode of All-American. This moment is when Ramapo quarterback Jack Grusser decided to make a home inside New Jersey’s own “Death Valley”. 

    Grusser, Harvard-bound after the school year, had himself a night with 320 yards and three touchdowns on 16-for-19 passing. He added another score on the ground and used his legs throughout the night. Grusser was able to constantly roll out of the pocket and extend plays when feeling the pressure of the Sparta rush. He was in control the entire game. 

    Grusser started the scoring with a great sequence. After rolling out of a sack on third down, he was able to rush his way over midfield for the first down. However, the play was called back due to holding and Ramapo was faced with a third and eighteen. Facing this long third down with one play left, Grusser dumped it off to running back Ethan Moran on a halfback screen. Moran followed his three lead blockers and made the final man miss, taking it 57 yards to the house.

    After Ramapo took the 7-0 lead, the Spartan offense went to work. After methodically moving downfield, it looked like the effort would come up short as fourth down approached. Sparta quarterback Austen Frattura, committed to Holy Cross, was then able to draw the Raiders’ defense offsides on fourth and two. The drive would, however, come up short. On first and goal, a Frattura pass was dropped in the end zone. The next play, running back Josh Brancy was able to get the ball to the one yard line. The quarter would end and both teams would make the trek to the other side of the field. The Ramapo defensive line then held on 3rd and 4th down, swallowing up Brancy on the goalline two plays in a row. 

    Taking over on the one, Ramapo was able to move out of safety territory with relative ease. Sparta looked like it would hold, as explosive defender Hunter Chlodnicki broke into the backfield again for his first of two sacks on second down. Just a sophomore, Chlodnicki has balled out all season and this game was no different. He finished with two sacks, two tackles for loss, and eight total tackles to further beef up his season totals. Grusser would not let the impending third down and long kill the drive, however, as top receiver Will Scordato found a seam in the middle of the field. Grusser delivered a quick strike that caught him in stride, and Scordato used his speed as a track star to outpace the Spartan secondary 68 yards into the endzone. 

    Ramapo would get another stop on defense, then move their offense down field with precision. Grusser would get his third touchdown of the night, throwing a high pass over a Sparta defensive back. Landon DePrima was able to jump up and grab it, falling back into the endzone. 

    Down 21-0 with halftime approaching, Josh Brancy provided a spark. Brancy cut through a hole in the line, putting on the afterburners as he hit the second level of Ramapo’s defense and raced into the endzone. This game would go into halftime with a 21-7 Ramapo lead, Sparta very much in the game but looking to capitalize on mistakes and finish more in the second half.

    Ramapo would not stop their momentum, however. They rolled out of the gates with a Grusser third-down strike to the one yard line. Ethan Moran took it from there, rushing straight up the middle. Moran complimented Grusser perfectly with 150 all-purpose yards, rushing for 86 yards while catching another 64 with two total touchdowns. 

    Frattura would answer for Sparta, finding Matt Schweizer over the top of a Raiders defensive back. Schweizer’s Randy Moss impression pulled the game to 28-14 Ramapo. Jack Grusser would answer right back though. The Spartans’ defensive line and edge rushers all deserve their recognition, as they were in the backfield early and often. Jack Grusser would be too much, marching down the field and finding DePrima again on a slant. 

    Sparta would get the ball back, but not for long. Frattura forced a screen pass that Ramapo’s Matt Bedrin hopped right in front of. He was staring down the end zone for a pick-six until Frattura chased him down across the whole field in a great effort. It would not matter in the end, as Grusser completed the drive with his final touchdown of the night. He dove into the endzone for his fifth total touchdown of the night, and it would be his last time on the field. 

    Garbage time finished the game, with both teams slowly taking starters out and letting the youth have a turn. Ramapo would turn to the junior DePrima as their quarterback. Landon, younger brother of Charles who is a quarterback at Harvard, did not disappoint as he led a perfect drive. DePrima went three-for-three for 49 yards and finished it by rifling one into the endzone to Brandon Del Valle. DePrima was a threat all night, finishing also with 64 yards on four receptions and two touchdowns. 

    The game would end there, with a final score of 49-14 in the Raiders favor. The quarterback battle did not disappoint, with Grusser having an absurd night and Frattura finishing with 156 yards and a touchdown. At the end of the day, the Group 4 powerhouse of Ramapo was too much for Group 3 contender Sparta to handle. It was a valiant effort from both sides throughout the night.