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A clear October night was met by a familiar friend: the color pink. The Pequannock Panthers sported pink paws on the side of their helmets, while the Chiefs were decked out in pink gloves, wristbands, socks, and even some cleats. These two teams are not only proponents of breast cancer awareness, but also of good football. The Panthers have started the season quite well, while the Chiefs are giving it all they can to live up to high expectations.

The game starts with Hopatcong on offense, but something is different. Running out to the huddle as always is Vinny Giordano, but he isn’t getting the play from Coach Venturino. Junior Bart Yarosz, who finally gained eligibility after transferring from Morris Catholic, is the team’s new quarterback. Giordano now comes out as the team’s receiver. Not only is there a quarterback change, but the Chiefs also come out in SHOTGUN! The last time the Chiefs did a play from the gun, Moses was parting the Red Sea.

The play is a simple six-yard hitch to Vince that seems radically modern for the Chiefs. To continue the drive, Jake Wilkerson runs belly out of the shotgun for a first down. The Chiefs drive down the field with a pass over the middle, hitting senior tight end Kyle Dixon for 14 yards. On 3rd down-and-12, Dixon catches another pass to gain a first down once again. As the Chiefs are knocking on the door, Giordano catches a hitch route, makes a defender miss, and runs into the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown. The Chiefs are up 7-0.

The Panthers get the ball, and fumble on the first play. The fumble does not matter, however, because of a penalty against the Chiefs. The Panthers catch a hook for an immediate first down. The Panthers switch formations before the play. Sean Klimek runs the ball up the middle. The Panthers quarterback Tom Crooks takes the snap, bobbles it, and is sacked by Chiefs junior Mauro Fernandez.

Pequannock misses an open wheel route, and then a pass. The Chiefs take over on downs.

Hopatcong gives the ball right back as Tom Crooks picks off Yarosz on an out route, putting the Panthers in great field position. After Mikey Maddaluna stops Pequannock for a small gain, on third down, Tom Crooks scrambles on 3rd-and-15 to move the chains. On the same drive, 3rd-and-goal, Crooks takes a QB sneak in for a score. The Panthers tie it at 7 as the first quarter comes to a close.

The Chiefs fail to sustain a quality drive after senior captain Jake Dorman takes a counter for 8 yards. Hopatcong’s short drive ends in a punt.

On the first play of Pequannock’s drive, Crooks runs the read option for 78 yards as he fools the entire Hopatcong defense. Shortly after that, senior Justin Brunda runs the ball to the outside, and breaks a tackle for a 4-yard score. The Panthers take a 14-7 lead.

The Chiefs need a big play, and Jake Wilkerson answers the call. He takes belly up the middle, spins off a defender and picks up 23 yards. The drive begins to stall. On 3rd-and-two, the Chiefs go deep to Giordano, and it falls incomplete. Hopatcong punts.

But Hopatcong comes right back with a big defensive play. Captain Bobby Juliano picks off a pass over the middle and runs the ball to the Pequannock 12-yard line. Hopatcong comes out firing with new momentum. Yarosz goes to hit Giordano in the corner of the end zone, but it falls incomplete. On third down, there’s another incomplete pass, but there is a defensive holding penalty against the defense. After the penalty, Yarosz takes a sneak across the goal line. The PAT is blocked. Pequannock holds on to a 14-13 lead.

The half finishes with Hopatcong shutting down the Pequannock offensive.

Pequannock comes out of the half FAST. Sean Klimek runs the ball for 15 on the first play. Tom Crooks runs untouched for a 40-yard touchdown. 21-13 Panthers.

The Chiefs grind down the field, attempting to keep the game tight. Wilkerson converts multiple runs on third down to keep the chains moving. The drive stalls when Hopatcong is stopped on two consecutive quarterback sneaks.

The Panthers do not get the football for long. Junior Joseph Walthour recovers a fumbled snap on the second play of the drive.

The Chiefs have a huge momentum swing go their way. This could be the chance they need to turn the game around, but it is not meant to be. On the second play of this drive, Yarosz scrambles from the pocket, gets hit hard, and loses the football. The game continues to go the way of the Panthers. Justin Brunda takes the ball, bounces it outside, and punches it in for a 24-yard score. The game is now 28-13 Panthers.

The Chiefs come out with a run for 7 yards by Bobby Juliano, but give the ball right back. A Hopatcong pass is tipped at the line of scrimmage, and intercepted by the Panthers.

Don’t look away. The Panthers put another touchdown on the board. Sean Klimek takes the ball straight to the outside, and gains 33. The game quickly gets ugly. Justin Brunda scores once more from up the middle. The Chiefs are down 35-13. The third quarter comes to an end as the game gets away from Hopatcong.

Hopatcong doesn’t give up. The offense comes back out and runs the ball hard. Juliano and Wilkerson pound the ball on the ground to gain serious yardage. On fourth down, Giordano cannot come up with a reception to keep the drive alive; however, there is a penalty on the play. The call is against the Panthers, but occurs after the play, so Pequannock takes the ball.

Pequannock runs out the clock as both teams pull their starters. The teams meet at the 50-yard line after the Panthers come in to Hopatcong and take down the Chiefs 35-13.

Pequannock continue their strong season and improve to 4-1. Hopatcong is fighting with all they have and continues to play extremely tough football. There are still high hopes for the Chiefs and they aren’t gonna stop attacking until the last down is played.

Andrew is a three-sport varsity athlete and honor roll student at Hopatcong High School battling back from a season-ending knee injury. Determined to support his team, he is our Hopatcong reporter, bringing news from his Chiefs to our readers.

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