photographs by Tatiana Karram
The Hopatcong Chiefs’ football team capped off another memorable season last week with a 20-12 win over Cedar Grove in the snow. This season was filled with ups and downs as they finished the season at 6-4, the same record as last year.
Some of the most exciting games ever played on their home field came late in the season to help them lock up a share of the Liberty Division Championship. The Chiefs started off hot, as they were the first team in almost fifteen years to start the season 2-0. They fought many close and tough battles, as they ultimately missed out on the state playoffs by the smallest of margins.
The Chiefs prided themselves on an extremely fast and physical defense, as well as a strong run-oriented offense. The defense was led by junior-year Captain Jake Dorman, as well as senior captain James Cranmer and senior captain Shea Bongiavonni. The defense broke the single season record for interceptions, as well. Vince Giordano led the team with seven interceptions, and others were Tobi Olubenga, Kyle Dixon, and Jonathon Yanko. Their offense was focused on running the football throughout the season.
Bongiavonni had a terrific year carrying the football, as well as Dorman, Jake Wilkerson, Bobby Juliano. Junior Andrew Nee began the season as a starting halfback, but his season ended after three games due to a knee injury. Giordano made plays at the quarterback position, as well the propelled his team to wins in the final games of the year.
Hopatcong enjoyed huge strides in becoming a respected program around the area. In only two years under head coach Jerry Venturino the Chiefs have certainly made noise for everyone to hear about. The rivalry game against Lenape Valley was an incredible atmosphere as it showed how Hopatcong has progressed into a program.
If there was one game that truly represents the Chiefs’ season which would it be? Dorman replied, “One game that showed us as a team and a program was the Lenape game. That is because we had not only the team behind us, but the whole town as well. Even though we came up short, it showed how much of a close-knit family we are.
Dorman, who plays middle linebacker and fullback for the team, said about the team’s journey: “We graduated a lot of kids last year; it was a big class. As Coach V says, ‘You want to graduate a lot of seniors.’” Dorman added: “With their graduating, as a team, we knew the responsibilities we had to take on. Starting in the offseason, our seniors led us as motivators on a journey to become a successful program. During camp I was picked to be a captain, and I was grateful to take on the responsibility of the job. After a tough year, we ended the season 6-4 and became division champs. I am happy that I get another chance to come back to get a state championship.”
Although this senior class had great talent, they were not large in numbers. The Chiefs come back next year with many returning starters looking to improve off this season. Hopatcong will certainly be ready for next season when it rolls around. Congratulations to everyone involved with the Hopatcong Chief football team on another successful season. We all can’t wait for next season.