One of the most bittersweet moments for high school athletes may be senior night, which marks the final home game for players. For the Chiefs, the only people standing in the way of Hopatcong coming off their field as victors one last time were the Morristown Beard Crimson, and they planned to spoil the party.
The Chiefs received the opening kickoff. The first play resulted in an eight-yard gain as Jake Wilkerson ran the ball hard up the middle. Now this was where the fun started. Senior captain Jake Dorman got the ball on tackle trap, followed a wall of offensive linemen, and broke out down the sideline for a 55-yard touchdown. The quick start for Hopatcong resulted in 7-0 Chiefs.
On Mo Beard’s first possession, the Crimson took the ball out of the gun for a minimal gain. Mo Beard got their 1st down when Zach Dees caught a hook from Brad Dallas. But, the drive could not gain any more steam after a bad snap and TFL by Maddaluna, followed by a sack by Nene Ariza on 3rd down.
The next drive for Hopatcong started with a tough and patient run by Jake Wilkerson for 16 yards, only to be brought back by a holding penalty. The running back gained back all those lost yards and then some as he once again burst through the line, got to the second level, and down the right sideline for 51 yards. Dorman got his second score of the first quarter and Hopatcong went up 14-0.
The Crimson would not give up however. Maddaluna tackled the runner for a loss, and, on second down, Dallas threw a seam pass over the middle to Ryan Russo. Russo dodged two defenders and ran across the goal line for a 57-yard touchdown. The Crimson cut the lead to 14-7.
As the first quarter came to a close, Dorman had another big play. He stumbled, bobbled, and spun off a defender on a switch route to make an amazing grab for 49 yards! It got even better: Wilkerson went inside, then broke outside, and ran past the pylons for a 20-yard score. An exciting first quarter ended at 21-7, Chiefs.
The Crimson failed to make their next drive a success. After running the ball for minimal yardage, Ariza sacked the quarterback on third down once again, forcing a three-and-out.
Hopatcong’s offense came out of the gate hot after scoring on their first three possessions. The fourth possession did not have the same result. The team faced 4th-and-four after a double handoff run on third down. The fourth down pass by Yarsoz fell incomplete as he faced pressure from the D-Line.
Russo struck again for the Crimson. Another seam pass resulted in a 47-yard score as he blew past his defender in man coverage. 21-14, and the game got closer.
Hopatcong came out in their next drive and had two first downs negated by penalties. A quarterback scramble on third down could not move the chains and the Chiefs gave the ball right back. But the defense held strong. Jake Dorman hit Nick Fazio hard in the backfield, and the Crimson failed to get anything going after that.
Hopatcong had the ball in great field position as Wilkerson ran belly for a big gain, and then took the ball down to the one-yard line on third-and-short. He capped off the drive that was basically all about him with a short 1-yard touchdown. The Chiefs extended the lead back to 28-14.
As Mo Beard got the ball, the half ended with a sack by Ariza and Desmond Lugo, and a tackle on the next play by Bart Yarosz.
Hopatcong started the second half on defense. A bad snap gave the Crimson no chance at gaining yards on first down. The next play was a near touchdown for Mo Beard. Dees ran a double move on the defense, but he was overthrown. On 3rd down, Hopatcong D got even more momentum. Ariza recovered a fumble, and the offense took over.
Hopatcong had a quick turnover on downs after a few passes fell incomplete and Mo Beard began to put another drive together. Tahj Valentine took a handoff up the middle and made a first down out of it. Maddaluna attempted to stop the drive after he got another tackle for loss, but there were more yards to be gained. Russo found another hole in the defense for a 27-yard pass over the middle. The Crimson were getting closer to the goal line.
On third-and-goal, Junior Pat Aufiero jumped up to tip and deflect a pass. 4th-and-goal, Dallas scrambled out to find a receiver but the ball was hit out of the quarterback’s hands, and Jake Wilkerson picked it up and ran it for 45 yards.
Hopatcong couldn’t be stopped. Senior Bobby Juliano picked up 12 yards on an outside run. The next play he came back to the outside, broke through the defense, and scored from 43 yards out. The game was 34-13 in favor of the Chiefs.
Morristown Beard attempted one last push. The Crimson would receive some good fortune after a person foul was called on third-down-and-long. Their luck ran out quickly after Dallas was hit hard and sophomore Anthony Mastroeni made the recovery for Hopatcong. Once Hopatcong took the ball the game was basically over.
Wilkerson put another exclamation point on his night with a 50-yard run along the sideline. The varsity offense was pulled. Junior running back Joey Badgley scored his first varsity touchdown from only a few yards out to make the score 41-14.
Mo Beard added one more score from Russo. The clock ran out and the game was over with a final score of 41-20, ending the Chiefs losing streak as they walk off their home field as winners for the last time.