WOODBRIDGE, NJ — Simply put, Ben Hasenkopf has been a defensive beast for New Providence during the last three seasons.
This past year — his senior season — Hasenkopf recorded a staggering 75 tackles while playing in every game for the Pioneers, including a career-best 16 tackle game against Brearley. That monstrous season came on the heels of a 35 tackle campaign with two sacks and an interception in 2016.
And while Haskenkopf will be playing many more football games in his life as his new beginning at Gettysburg College starts next month, he got a chance to close out his high school career.
Hasenkopf represented New Providence by playing linebacker and serving as a captain for Union County in the 25th annual Snapple Bowl — a senior All-Star game between Union and Middlesex Counties. To put into perspective the kind of achievement this was: Hasenkopf, a Group 1 player, was on the same Union defense that featured four players from three-time defending Group 5 state champion Westfield, and players from other major school powerhouses such as Linden and Union.
Accompanying Hasenkopf as Union County captains were Adam McDaniel (Westfield), Jordan Barham (Westfield), and Joe Shepard (Summit).
The Snapple Bowl — filled with future college players — served as almost a transition to the collegiate level for Hasenkopf. In August, he will begin his career for the renowned Division III program at Gettysburg, which plays many teams that will have players who competed in this Snapple Bowl.
Unfortunately for Haskenkopf and Union County, the game — which was ended with 1:25 left because of a fight — got away as Middlesex took a 22-6 victory in its home territory. Union County had won the previous two Snapple Bowls.
Thursday’s Snapple Bowl was marked by a pair of elite defenses. Though Union County’s D — which featured four players from three-time state champion Westfield High School — limited the opposition to just 65 yards of offense in the first half, Middlesex held Union to just one touchdown and 141 total yards in the game.
Union County’s lone bright spot came moments after halftime. Trailing, 16-0, Chuck Ifewekune (Union) broke free for a monstrous team-high 20-yard run to put Union County in the red-zone. A few plays later, quarterback Antonio Salcfas (Dayton) hooked up with Andy Martin (Union) on a four-yard TD pass, which at the time made it 16-6.
Union County attempted to cut its deficit in half with a two-point conversion, but Middlesex stopped Salcfas from sneaking into the end zone at the one-yard line, and that would be as close as Union would come.
Middlesex County responded to Ifewekwune’s touchdown and put the game on ice when Paul Cocozziello (St. Joseph) hit with Tyler Jack (Perth Amboy) on a monstrous 64-yard TD pass down the right sideline late in the fourth quarter.
After a scoreless deadlock of an opening quarter, Middlesex County struck first blood and broke a scoreless tie in the second when Donovan Benoit (Edison) hopped into the end zone from one yard out. Moments later, Union County QB Tajae Irby fumbled a snap in his own end zone and was forced to dive on top of it, causing a safety and giving Middlesex a 9-0 lead that would hold at halftime.