BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - As the Governor Livingston Highlanders football team gets set to open the 2017 season, fifth-year head coach Dan Guyton and his squad are already dealing with a bit of adversity.
Guyton has already lost a pair of projected starters in senior quarterback/ defensive back Quinn Haddad and junior running back/linebacker Noah Brogdon to injury. On top of the key injuries, the Highlanders will play at least their first home game away from the confines of Berkeley Heights due to construction on its home field.
“Our turf and track are being re-done and will not be completed in time for our home opener against Vorhees on September 9th therefore we are playing at Kean University at 2 p.m.,” Guyton said.
Despite the early obstacles, Guyton refuses to make excuses and says the goals for this season will remain unchanged.
“Our only goals are to work extremely hard, possess laser focus and to be the best possible football team we can be,” Guyton said.
“Since my first year in 2014 our team motto has been 'Burn the Ships!'. The saying derives from Sun Tzu’s Art of War where he described how commanders should burn their boats when attacking a nearby enemy so that there is no chance for re-treat. It is also a metaphor for putting the past behind you and moving forward not letting what has come before inhibit the present. “
Luckily for the Highlanders as they try to weather this early storm, he returns a solid group of veterans in seniors Mike Magliacano, Pat DeAngelis, Matt Schuman, DJ Gonnelli and Brandon Gyory .
All five will likely play on both sides of the ball. Magliacano, Gonnelli, and Gyory will anchor the lines, Schuman will line up at flanker and defensive back while DeAngelis returns for his third year as the team’s starting quarterback. DeAngelis will play some defensive back as well.
Big things are especially expected from DeAngelis who many believe is in store for a breakout final season at Governor Livingston. And with the added wrinkles to the team’s spread single wing, DeAngelis, there’s no reason to believe DeAngelis won’t thrive.
“On offense, we have added some wrinkles that will make us a bit more balanced,” Guyton said.
Defensively, the Highlanders were hit hard by injuries last season. Guyton believes that if his defense continues to improve while remaining healthy, his team can make a run at a postseason berth.
“Our focus is on improving the defense first where injuries last year decimated our chances at being a playoff contender,” Guyton said.
The Highlanders will once again compete in the always-rugged Union County Conference-Mountain Division. They’ll once again face the likes of Rahway, Cranford, and North Plainfield among others in addition to the annual showdown with rival New Providence on Thanksgiving Day.
Another caveat to the schedule is the fact that the team only has three home games. Guyton said that due to the road-heavy schedule, “Burn The Ships” fits better than ever.
“Our schedule is such that every opponent we face will force us to play our best brand of football,” Guyton said. “Our program is looking for the first winning season and first playoff win since 2009.”