BERKELEY HEIGHTS — Going up against one of the top teams in the county, the Gov. Livingston boys’ soccer team certainly has every reason to hold its head high after battling in a 1-0 loss to Scotch Plains-Fanwood. 

Despite giving up the game’s lone goal — which came on a free kick after a yellow card was issued against the Highlanders — Gov. Livingston held a high-powered Scotch Plains team to just one goal in a closely-contested match. The Raiders had scored 23 goals in their previous four games entering Thursday’s match and winners of their last five games. 

“It was a good effort, but that’s a winnable game,” Gov. Livingston head coach Bruno Somma told “They had the better play in the first half, I thought we had the better play in the second half. We missed some opportunities up front, and sometimes you catch the breaks — they caught the break and got one in."

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The break Scotch Plains-Fanwood caught ultimately won the game for the Raiders. Gov. Livingston’s Andrew Santamaria was issued a yellow card for slide tackling Scotch Plains’ Jon Koseoglu in the 32nd minute, and Brogan Quigley took the Raiders’ awarded free kick. Quigley launched a ball into the 18-box, which the Raiders’ Jack Brady used his height to get his head on and sent it over to Zidan Abdella, who also used his head and pushed the ball past goalie Andre Perez-Santalla and into the upper left corner of the goal for what proved to be the winning score. 

However, the Highlanders didn’t quit after allowing the late first half goal and came out of the intermission with firepower. They fired off six shots on goal in the final 40 minutes — and 10 total for the afternoon — while creating numerous threatening scoring chances, but just couldn’t seem to find the back of the net.

“We had good pressure, but the shots on goal — we didn’t have quality shots on goal,” said coach Somma. “Even though we had opportunities, they weren’t quality shots. Really, their goalie never got tested; we never tested the goalie. We had pressure, but we couldn’t finish.”

The Highlanders certainly had their chances, the brightest of which came midway through the second half. From the righthand side of the pitch, Justin Ladzinksi sent a beautiful cross to Francisco Cunningham across the field in front of the six-box. Cunningham got his head on the pass but his header sailed just wide to the right of the goal. Had the shot gone a few inches to the left, it would’ve beaten Scotch Plains goalie Aaron Schack and evened up the game at one.

Otherwise, the Raiders of Scotch Plains did an exceptional job limiting the Highlanders offense, which had entered the match averaging three goals per game in their previous three matches. The Raiders had identified that Highlanders senior Josiah Crawford was a dangerous scoring threat, and head coach Tom Breznitsky felt as though his team did a successful job stopping the Gov. Livingston standout. 

“You can’t let one player beat you,” Breznitsky said. “We really didn’t pay a great amount of attention to him in the first half. With [defender] Jon Schwab, I told him to not mark [Crawford] man-to-man, but pay a little more attention. The kid had a helluva shot — and we had a great save — in the first 10 minutes … other than that, I don’t think he really had any other solid opportunities.”

Despite the loss, Gov. Livingston hopes playing a winnable 1-0 game with a premier opponent prepares them for the schedule that lies ahead. 

“Hopefully in our players’ minds, it’s a positive game,” Somma said. “In my mind, I thought it was a winnable game, so we’re going to move on from here and hopefully do well in the next couple of games.”

Next up for the Highlanders will be a road match with Arthur L. Johnson on Tuesday, before beginning the Union County Tournament next Saturday against the winner of Oratory Prep vs. Summit.