RAMSEY, N.J. – When it came to dissecting the North 1 Group 2 landscape, there was no telling which team had an upper hand this early in the race.
That all changed on Friday night.
Mike Monopoli returned the opening kick-off 95 yards for a touchdown, quarterback Tim Barnes shined on offense and River Dell set the tone early in its 31-0 triumph over rival Ramsey in a rain-soaked showdown.
The much-anticipated matchup, which was broadcast live on MSG Varsity iO Ch. 14 and live-streamed on MSGVarsity.com, featured two North 1 Group 2 heavyweights with aspirations of raising a sectional championship trophy come December.
In the end, though, the Golden Hawks made quite a statement, getting off to a fast start and never letting up en route to improving to 3-0 for the sixth straight season.
"It's a big boost for us," Barnes said. "They're a good team and they've beaten us before. We'll see them again, so it's a big boost."
River Dell gained 306 yards of total offense, out-rushed the opposition, 190-165, and held the Rams to just six passing yards. Barnes, a 6-foot-4 junior, completed 9 of 13 attempts for 116 yards and a scoring strike, while adding 38 yards on 10 carries.
In the first quarter, after Monopoli exploded for his big return 16 seconds in, Barnes registered an interception on defense and then anchored a short drive which ultimately led to his 1-yard touchdown run with 8:09 remaining in the session.
Alex Derner extended the lead to 17-0 when he converted a 30-yard field goal with 3:09 left in the second.
Barnes connected with Ryan Duran for a 30-yard touchdown pass 11 seconds into the fourth and Kevin Barry sealed the win by scoring from 63 yards out four minutes later.
"They're precise," said Rams coach Vic Tribuzio, whose squad won the North 1 Group 2 crown in 2009 and lost in the title-game last year. "They're well-coached and their kids execute. They don't make mistakes."
Dejan Adair rushed for 57 yards on 12 carries, while Jared Donnarumma added 49 yards on the ground for Ramsey, which fell to 2-1 after having defeated Dumont and Mahwah.
"It's the importance of your next game," Tribuzio added. "It's what you're preparing for. You've got to move on. Even when you win, it's great, but you've got to move on."
Contact Brian Fitzsimmons at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter