Senior Night and Homecoming always draw in big crowds at high school football games. When there are big crowds, there is energy; the Chiefs fueled off that to pull off a big win over the Kinnelon Colts 26-7 on Friday night.

After several drives of no scoring, the game got off to a slow start. After a three and out at the tail end of the first quarter, senior running back Johann Lara fielded a punt at his own 47, and with great blocking returned the kick  53 yards to the end zone to open up the scoring. This was only the first of several big plays by the Chiefs.

On the Chiefs’ first play on their next possession, junior Shea Bongiovanni broke several tackles on a sweep and took it the distance 30 yards to the end zone to put Hopatcong up 13-0. But with only a few moments left before halftime, Kinnelon broke through on a 35 yard touchdown pass to make the score 13-7 at the half.

The Chiefs did not bend in the second half, keeping Kinnelon to zero points the rest of the night and tacking on two more touchdowns. Senior running back Tommy Rieg refused to go down on his 44 yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and Lara ran for another touchdown that sealed the deal in the fourth quarter. But the story of the night was the Chiefs’ defense. It was truly the back bone of the win.

The Chiefs defense put pressure on the Kinnelon quarterback all night long and swallowed up the run game. Senior Troy Bongiovanni and Junior James Cranmer lead the pressure all night long, playing outstanding defense. The Chiefs’ secondary also came up big with two interceptions, one by Lara and one by senior cornerback Victor Cotto.

“This was a huge game for us,” said senior quarterback Ryan Clarke. “Our theme for the week was determination; we were determined all week long to make sure we won this game. In every phase of the game we played well – offensively, defensively, and on special teams. Plus with their being 18 seniors on this team, losing on senior night was not an option for us.”

“Our defense played lights out,” said Cranmer, who had 9 tackles, a sack, and a pass deflection that turned into an interception. “And our offensive line really stepped it up this week. I am proud of both the defense and the O-line.”

The Chiefs gained crucial power points in the state playoff seedings, moving up to to sixth place in North 1 Group 1 with still two games remaining before the cutoff. The Chiefs will travel to Morris Catholic for a battle with the Crusaders on Saturday afternoon at 1 o’clock where they will seek to become 5-2 on the season.

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