When he throws the football, he hits receivers with pinpoint accuracy. When he scrambles out of the pocket, he is impossible to catch. You never see him coming when he plays defense. He always ends up with the ball in his hands. The football may even be “webbed” in his hands because he never lets it go. He is quick. He is elusive. He never stops. Vincent Giordano of the Hopatcong Chiefs is Spiderman.
Giordano is a senior two-way starter for the Freedom Division championship Chiefs. He is the team’s dual-threat quarterback, as well as their ball-hawking cornerback. As a junior, Giordano totaled nearly one thousand yards of offense. While being able to throw the football downfield, Giordano was also able to cross the goal line eight times while playing offense. Whether going through the air, scrambling to make a play, or executing a designed-quarterback run, Giordano is always a threat to opposing defenses. On the other side of the ball, Giordano tied Hopatcong’s individual record of seven interceptions in a single season. Whether it was jumping up and stealing the football out of thin air with one hand, or jumping a pass in the flats and returning it for a touchdown, Giordano set the mentality for creating turnovers on a tenacious defense.
Giordano’s play was not limited to offense and defense. He is also the team’s punter and kicker. Basically, he never leaves the field. He is far too competitive to watch the game from the sidelines.
How does the Chief’s hero prepare for the show on Friday night? He walks the Hopatcong High School halls with music in his headphones, giving high fives and fist bumps to anyone in a Chiefs jersey. Afterschool, the aura only grows. The locker room has speakers turned up all the way. And of course, the quarterback is playing his music, keeping the team in high spirits. When Giordano finally straps up and puts the pads on he is all business, changing from a normal high school kid to a fierce athlete in a matter of moments.
Finally, the sky turns dark on game day. Men dressed in green and black come out of the woods to watch. When the fire truck’s sirens go off, you know the Chiefs are coming to play. The team runs out from under their goalpost like a pack of hungry wolves, waiting to make their first kill of the evening. Giordano is fired up on the sideline as war is just moments away.
The battle begins. Giordano lights up a receiver who tries to block him. He dives to swat the ball to force an incompletion. He fights for those last few yards to move the chains. He puts all his effort into each play. But there’s more. Right before he kicks the ball off, Giordano will bring everyone in to make sure they are focused and ready to hit. In a huddle, he can calm people down, or he can bring them up.
When the game is almost over, he might pull something out of his bag of tricks for one last hurrah. Perhaps an interception on the last play to seal a division championship. Or what about the impossible overtime conversion where he dodges the entire North Warren defense? He managed to throw a prayer to Jonathon Yanko in the back of the end zone to keep the season alive.
But does Giordano get nervous before games? “I am confident when I go out there,” he explains. “I am confident in my O-Line.” The Chiefs are all about being confident in what they do at every point of a football, and Giordano keeps that going.
Giordano explains the game plan: In the first quarter, the Chiefs try to “weather the storm.” The Chiefs take their opponent’s best shot and keep rolling. The second quarter is determined by which team makes the most plays and by who is able to gain momentum going into halftime. The Chiefs aim to come out of halftime “aggressive” and read to “take control” of the game. When the final quarter comes, the Chiefs just lay it all on the line for the final twelve minutes.
And, how about before the lights turn on and everyone shows up to watch the games? Does the Hopatcong Spiderman have any pregame traditions? Giordano confessed to wearing the same “Punisher” T-shirt under his shoulder pads because a former coach gave it to him, and it symbolizes toughness to the Chief’s quarterback. Giordano also rocks a pair of gloves with the same logo on them. And, last year, right before team camp, he dyed his hair blonde for the season. This year, the Chiefs quarterback is blonde again.
Leaders of Giordano’s caliber help team morale beyond hair color and superstitions, though. After a win, the team is cheering. There is also quite a bit of dancing. The locker room is a very fun place to be while celebrating a W (I would know). However, after a loss, it is quite different, and some losses are tougher to swallow than others.
Giordano was asked how the team handled a tough loss to their rivals, Lenape Valley, and how they would react if the same happened this season. He had this to say: “You swallow it that night, but you gotta’ move past it for next week. We practice hard the next week to win. Even if we win any game, we always come in on a Saturday and go to work.” A leader like this helps the team come in on a cold Saturday morning, accept the loss, and move on to preparing for the next game.
Vince has a very strong group of friends that are all senior leaders, and who all have the ability to amp up everyone. But from the beginning of Giordano’s junior season, he grew into an even more mature and respected leader than he’d already been. Some seniors may have even looked to the junior for leadership.
So how did this local Spiderman become this way? Was it the spider bite? Or was it a coach? Giordano talked about the impact his head coach Jerry Venturino’s has had on him. Coach V was a quarterback on the school’s 2001 state championship team, the first state title in school history. He was an elusive quarterback who could beat defenses with his arm, his legs, and his mind. Sound similar? Giordano and his coach not only share talent, they also wear the same number.
There is more to this bond than just two people who play the same position. Some players on the Chiefs have actually joked that the quarterback and coach duo have started to act like each other. Vince certainly respects all that his coach has done for him as well as the team. Giordano pointed out how his mentor took over the program and grew the team. He mentioned how Coach V gives the team ideas on how to eat right and hydrate. Coach V also creates workout plans for in and out of the weight room, including the team’s summer strength program, which is notorious for being the toughest around. Giordano also points out how his coach knows how to pump up his team and prepare them for the task at hand. If you still don’t believe the trust and connection that this tandem has, go watch the Chiefs on a Friday night and there will plenty of moments where it is visible.
Giordano is looking to be recruited to play college football, although he remains unsure where he will end up, he hopes to study criminal justice. What else would Spiderman do besides fight crime?
About the Author
Andrew Nee is Hopatcong High School senior who will cover the Chiefs football for Morris Sussex Sports. He is a three-sport varsity athlete and a two-time First Team All-Conference track runner. Also, in football, and despite playing only three games after a season-ending knee injury, Andrew was named to the Second Team All-Conference team. Andrew is a member of the National Honor Society, with over a 4.5 GPA, and is in the top ten percent of his class. Andrew plans a comeback to sports after working hard to rehab his knee and hopes to play in college, where he also expects to study business.