Finally, it’s here: Football season’s Friday night lights; or perhaps, like this game, some Saturday afternoon showers. Although the weather was not great, there was still a great game between the Morris Catholic Crusaders and the Hopatcong Chiefs. Both teams entered the game with questions to answer. How would defending division champs Hopatcong Chiefs perform with expectations high for their very strong senior class? And for the Morris Catholic Crusaders, would this team show new head coach John Hack his impact on the program? But once the teams ran out on the field, it was just football as usual.
The first series of the game started off with a quick three-and-out for the Crusaders. They went deep on their first play, but Chiefs’ senior captain Bobby Juliano had coverage on Jayner Gorospe on a fade route. The first drive for the Chiefs started with a run up the middle by senior captain Jake Dorman for a few yards. The drive ended shortly after one first down for the Chiefs.
Morris Catholic got one of their first 1st downs of the game out of the wildcat formation with Gorospe on a QB keeper. The Crusaders continued to drive down the field with runs up by the middle by captain Peter Palumbo and Madison Evans. Late in the drive, Morris Catholic attempted a toss pass, but Juliano of the Chiefs broke it up. On fourth down, Chiefs senior captain Michael Maddaluna pressured Morris Catholic into a turnover on downs.
Early in the game, Morris Catholic struggled with the quarterback-center exchange. The weather was not playing a factor yet, and these bobble snaps cost Morris Catholic crucial yards.
On one of the final plays of the first quarter, Vince Giordano of the Chiefs looked deep downfield for his receiver, but the pass was intercepted by Gorospe and returned nearly 10 yards down field. The first quarter ended with a score of 0-0.
Morris Catholic was sent to punt early in the second quarter. The Chiefs tried to block the punt, and senior Dylan Frazier nearly got his hands on the ball, sending the punter on the run and giving Chiefs great field position.
Dorman went back at it, running the ball up the middle on consecutive plays, followed by junior tailback Jake Wilkerson who converted on a 4th and 1 from inside the red zone. He refused to go down and violently made his way into the endzone, leading to the Chiefs’ first points of the season. The extra point by Mauro Fernandez was good. 7-0 Chiefs.
And this is when the rain came down, and came down hard. The Chiefs fumbled the wet ball, but the offense recovered. After punting back and forth, and creating pressure on defense, the teams went to half with Hopatcong up 7-0.
Chiefs came out at halftime determined to get their offense rolling, but it was stifled by an equally determined Crusader defense. After a bad snap on the punt, Chiefs senior captain Vince Giordano picked the ball up, dodged multiple defenders, and managed to get the punt off without getting blocked. The punt still went a good distance, and one of the team’s stars just saved them from a heavy blow in the field position battle.
The Crusaders found success running up the middle with their halfbacks, but eventually Chiefs Mike Maddaluna came back into the mix with a tackle for loss.
When the Chiefs offense got the ball they looked to find rhythm again. Bobby Juliano set the tone with 25 yards on third down, still the drive did not amount to any points for the Chiefs.
Chiefs defense took over, and on the next drive they were close to getting a safety. Although they did not get it, they forced Morris Catholic to punt out of their own endzone.
Hopatcong was determined to secure the game. Jake Wilkerson got another fullback belly handoff, and bounced it to the outside for a gain of over 20 yards. On a crucial 4th down, Giordano lofted a wheel route that landed perfectly in Jake Dorman’s hands for a huge gain in a huge moment. To cap off the drive, Jake Wilkerson again punched it in with a tough run up the middle to give Hopatcong a 14-0 lead.
Morris Catholic took the ball and once again gets pressured up the middle by Mike Maddaluna. On fourth down of this drive, the Crusaders threw a deep pass, and it was caught just out of bounds.
With not much time left, the Morris Catholic defense was still holding strong. And, on offense, Morris Catholic came to life. On a crazy catch, Gorospe leaped into the air, grabbed the ball, and ran 88 yards for the score. The game was cut to 14-7.
When Hopatcong got the ball, it was the team’s goal to end the game quickly. However, they were not able to do that. The Chiefs had receivers open down field, but Giordano did not have enough time to get the pass off.
There are two minutes left in the game. Morris Catholic attempted a screen pass that was quickly sniffed out by senior linebacker Brayan Rodiguez for little gain. With Morris Catholic driving down the field, tasting their chance to beat Hopatcong, Vince Giordano jumped the route on a deep pass over the middle to seal the game. The Chiefs ran off the remaining thirty seconds with quarterback kneels as they left Denville on a Saturday afternoon with a 14-7 victory.
Next week, the 1-0 Hopatcong Chiefs play host to Kittatinny Cougars. Morris Catholic will be hosting the Whippany Park Wildcats.
Hopatcong 0 7 0 7 14
Morris Catholic 0 0 0 7 7
2nd: Hopatcong: Jake Wilkerson 8 run (Mauro Fernandez kick)
4th: Hopatcong: Jake Wilkerson 9 run (Mauro Fernandez kick)
4th: Morris Catholic: Jayner Gorospe 90 pass from Zach Poreman (kick)