BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston Highlanders (2-2) will meet the undefeated Somerville Pioneers (5-0) on Saturday afternoon, kickoff 1p.m. The Pioneers, who come in ranked 18th in the state defeated Rahway last week for their 5th win of the season while scoring a season high 59 points. The Highlanders who are coming off a heartbreaking 28-21 loss to Summit will be facing a powerful Somerville team who has engineered an incredible turnaround, having won more games (5) this season than they did in their previous 4 seasons combined. If the Pioneers knockoff the Highlanders they will claim the Mid-State 38 Mountain Conference title outright.
The Somerville offense this season can simply be described as scary. Led by senior QB Nick Couzzi the Pioneer offense is averaging an eye-popping 50 points per game. The undefeated Pioneers, who trailed Cranford at halftime and got behind two scores early against Rahway, wound up winning both games by 24 points illustrating the explosiveness of their high octane offense. Couzzi's passing this season 83-133 (62.4%), 1554 yards, and 20 TD passes coupled with his ability to run the ball (475 yds, 6 td) has literally shredded opposing defenses. However Pioneer offense is not just a one man show as they have multiple outstanding skill players who have joined Couzzi in steamrolling their opponents. Receivers Nasyr Petties-Jackson (33, 659, 10 td) and Chris Ciempola (16, 413, 5 td) are big play guys who are averaging 20 and 25.8 yards per catch respectively. The Pioneer's added another weapon last week, transfer Duke McDuffie, who caught a TD pass in his first game. The Somerville defense is solid but has allowed 2 opponents to score 35 points in games this season. They have surrendered more passing yards than rushing yards, but that is due to their opponents continually trying to play catchup. Active linebacker/pass rusher AJ Aikens who had 16 tackles last week against Rahway leads the defense along with two- way standout Petties-Jackson who has returned 2 of his 3 picks for scores.
If the Highlanders plan on staying in this game they have got to limit the possessions of the Pioneer offense. The good news is with the size and strength advantage of their offensive line the Highlanders should be able to move the ball on the ground against the Pioneers and shorten the game. Expect workhorse Will Nicholson to be the Highlanders primary ball carrier along with Quinn Haddad and Pat DeAngelis. Nicholson (70,448) had his second consecutive 100 yard game last week when he rushed for a career high 175 yards against Summit. If the Pioneers commit to crowding the line of scrimmage to stop the run, Highlander QB Quinn Haddad will need to look for wing back Jon Wong, wideout Matt Schuman or tight end Tommy Jakositz to loosen up the Pioneer defense.
On defense the Highlanders will obviously first need to contain Couzzi, which won't be easy. When Couzzi does connect with Petties-Jackson, Ciempola,Keyshawn Newton, and now McDuffie the Highlanders better be prepared to wrap up and pursue the ball with multiple tacklers. All of these Pioneer receivers have the ability to turn relatively short receptions into long gains with their exceptional running ability. What also makes the Pioneer offense so difficult to stop is that they spread the ball around to all of their skill players not allowing a defense to key on any one threat. Last week in the loss to Summit the Highlander defense played a solid game against a fast spread offense that offers a similar look to Somerville’s,although the Pioneers are much quicker to the line of scrimmage. Summit managed to score both times the Highlanders offense turned over the ball, which proved to be the difference in the game. If the Highlanders give the ball back to the prolific Couzzi and the explosive Pettis-Jackson on a short field the Pioneers will most likely put up another 40 plus game.
GL’S SINGLE-WING OFFENSE:
GL’s 4-3 DEFENSE:
Magliacano, junior, (6-0, 240)
Mickey Kerr, senior, (5-11, 250)
FB Turner Haddad senior,(5-11,200)
FB Jason Coldon, senior, (6-2, 220)
HB Chris Bruno, soph. (6-0,165)
WB Jonathan Wong, senior, (5-5, 150)
E Mike Magliacano, junior, (6-0, 240)
E John Jeffords, (6-3,190)
LB Turner Haddad, senior, (5-11, 200)
GL HIGHLANDERS 2016 Schedule
Sept. 9 at Voorhees (1-4), WIN 21-13
Sept 17, Rahway (4-1), LOSS 34-10
Sept. 23, North Plainfield (1-4), WIN 36-33
Oct. 7, Summit (5-0), LOSS 28-21
Oct. 15, Somerville (5-0), 1 p.m. Preview above
Oct. 21 at Cranford (3-2), 7 p.m. – The Cougars are back on track having won their last 2 games and are averaging 41 points per game in their last 4 outings. Brian Oblachinski and Ryan Bakie are again doing it on offense and defense. QB Oblachnski ran for 218 yards and pass for 120 last week against SPF. The Cougars will face off against rival Summit this week in a battle of the 2 most successful Union County teams over the past 5 years.
Oct. 29 Delaware Valley (2-3), 1 p.m. – The Terriers under new head coach Mike Haughey who previously was the team's defensive coordinator got off to a rocky start losing their first 2 games. However, Haughey and the Terriers had a nice win last week against Bernards ,holding a potent Mountaineer offense to just 13 points. They will now be looking to get to .500 with a win over Voorhees this week.