NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Nothing has come easy for Gov. Livingston’s football team whenever New Providence is in the equation.
Winners of only three games since the 1960s, the Highlanders have not been victorious over the Pioneers since 2005. That streak, along with GL’s recent line of sub-.500 seasons, ended on Saturday as Gov. Livingston cruised to a 35-14 victory over their rivals at Lieder Field.
"It feels good,” Gov. Livingston head coach Dan Guyton said. “We continued to fight all season. No matter what the circumstances, no mater what the score, we played as hard as we could and continued to battle. I’m proud of them finishing off and finishing with a .500 record for the first time in a long time.”
Leading 28-0, Gov. Livingston held off the Pioneers comeback attempt after New Providence scored twice in a 3-minute span late in the third quarter and beginning of the fourth.
Once the Pioneers made it 28-14, the Highlanders abruptly terminated New Providence’s next two drives with interceptions, ending Gov. Livingston’s losing streak in Mayor’s Cup games.
“We hang our hat on our defense,” Guyton said. "We take a lot of pride and spend a lot of time to be a hard nosed football team that plays a tough brand of defense.”
Led by their seniors, the Highlanders exploded out of the gate to score touchdowns on their first two possessions, putting them in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game.
Senior Rimi Marke ripped off a 33-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the game. Then on their next possession, another soon-to-be-graduate, Alex Boyd, drilled the ball in from 3-yards out to put the Highlanders up 14-0.
“As far as the offense goes, I think it was the whole team,” Boyd said. “Everybody was running the ball. The linemen were making big blocks up front, everybody was hitting the whole, it was great. Since we have so many backs, we’re able to stay fresh when we run the ball, which is a huge advantage."
While the Gov. Livingston offense wrecked havoc on New Providence’s injury-plagued defense, the Highlanders’ defense controlled the trenches when they needed to most.
Late in the second quarter with the Pioneers threatening deep in GL territory, the Highlanders stuffed New Providence’s running attack on three consecutive plays then forced a missed field goal to keep NP off the scoreboard at halftime.
If that wasn’t the turning point, the next two plays of the game were. After New Providence took the second half kick-off to their 37-yard line, Gov. Livingston recovered a fumble on the first play of the Pioneer drive. On the ensuing play for GL’s offense, Mike Policastro hit Jimmy Longo with a 43-yard pass that ended with Longo in the end zone.
The defense definitely played hard,” Boyd said. “We knew they have quick backs. We really just focused on following our assignments and being in the right place at the right time.”
After Gov. Livingston extended their lead to 28-8 following a Mike Rhodes score, New Providence’s offense did their best to make the fourth quarter interesting.
Junior Andy Urness scored the first touchdown of his varsity career in the closing seconds of the third quarter. The Pioneers' defense responded by forcing and recovering a fumble on Gov. Livingston’s next possession.
Faced with a 4th and 13 from GL’s 46-yard line, the Pioneers connected on a hook-and-lateral. Quarterback Matt McCann hit Dylan Thomas with the initial pass, who then pitched the ball back to a sprinting Yamato Ejiri who took the ball all the way to the end zone.
Unfortunately for New Providence, 28-14 was as close as they would get as their next two possessions ended with interceptions.
“They played a better football game than us,” New Providence head coach Joe Carollo said. “They deserve all the credit. We turned the ball over. We didn’t tackle the way we should have. To them, give them all the credit in the world. That’s the bottom line.”