By Nathan MaybergSPARTA — Fresh off a 42-19 drubbing of Mahwah, the Sparta football team is looking to seal their second straight state championship on Saturday when they face River Dell in a rematch of last year's section 1, group 3 final at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
Last year, Sparta shutout River Dell 40-0. If River Dell is to have any hope at the 1 p.m. kickoff, they will have to stop Sparta's high-powered offense, which is led by senior quarterback Anthony Argula and senior running back Lucas Faria.
Argula has thrown for 37 touchdowns, more than 2,400 yards, has run for five touchdowns and thrown just five interceptions this season.
"He's one of the best quarterbacks in the state," Sparta Coach Frank Marchiano said. "He makes good decisions."
Faria has rushed for more than 1,000 yards with 15 touchdowns on the ground and another four touchdown receptions.
Faria set the Sparta career rushing record this year. Last year, Faria led the state in rushing.
While he battled a hamstring injury earlier this year, Sparta coach Marchiano said Faria is "back at being at full strength."
Marchiano said Faria is a "good kid, an excellent student. He works extremely hard."
Sporting a 10-1 record and an offense that features receivers Dean Gennat, Skyler Francisco, Tyler Trzcinski, Teddy Fischer and a sturdy group of linemen, Marchiano calls this team the "best group of skilled kids I've ever coached."
With a defensive line led by Jimmy Cartier, Dillon Bray, Rob Hornberger and Aaron Kec, the Spartans are well rounded.
Francisco boasts seven interceptions on the season.
"It's a collective effort," Marchiano said.
This will be Marchiano's third straight trip with Sparta to the championship game. He lost his first state final with Sparta in 2012 against Ramapo.
Marchiano credits the success of the team to it's senior leadership.
"It always comes down to leadership," Marchiano said. "That starts with our seniors. If the seniors are dedicated to the common goal, everybody else follows."
He said his group of seniors have been "great ambassadors to our program."
The coach said he is proud of the team's efforts so far.
Reaching the championship game is "something that these kids have been working for since June," Marchiano said.
"It's definitely something that they have paid the price for."