BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston Highlander football team will honor 21 senior players and their families prior to a critical face off with the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders on Saturday afternoon in Berkeley Heights.
The Senior Day ceremony will begin half hour before the slated 1:30 pm kickoff and will also recognize graduating Highlander band members, cheerleaders, and team managers/statisticians for their dedication to Governor Livingston and Highlander football.
The Senior Day Highlander football honorees are: James Snyder, Brendan Fenton, Drew Rittman, Andrew Cahill, Greg Friedenberg, Dylan Dwyer ,Will Tracy, Matt Colon, Matt Richel, Noah Truncale, Chris Bruno, Jake Pencek, Matt Elmblad, Diego Lopez, Aidan Quigley, Colin Dooley ,Dylan DeFronzo, Damon Ippolito, Charlie Wojtczak, Jake Faulkner, and Lucas Sperduto. Team managers are Julia Disko, Zach Kisciras, and Nicole Massa.
The Senior Day Highlander cheerleaders honorees are: Catie Knecht, Melany Lanza, James Lenahan, Michele Luo, Jane Morabito, Kaitlyn Pitt, Allison Salvetti, and Nicole Tomich
Senior Highlander Marching Band honorees are: Jacqui Barbieri, Vasant Bhardwaj, Ron Hargash, Raquel Henriques, Matthew Landale, Samuel lee, Nabiha Mahmood, Carlos Ministro, Joshua Nimaroff, Matthew Proano, Alexis Pugliese, Jennifer Quiros, Christopher Schmedel, and Aaron Wang.
Game Preview: Gov. Livingston vs Scotch Plains-Fanwood
After a bye week, the Highlanders are in desperate need of a win if they hope to post their first winning season since 2008 and make the 2018 NJSIAA state playoffs. Gov. Livingston's season mark of 2-3 most likely means the Highlanders will need to win their next three games to qualify for the state playoffs in the newly formatted North, Group 3 bracket. At the very least, if Gov. Livingston wants to break that 10 year stretch of .500 or below seasons, they will have to start with a win against neighboring Scotch Plains on Saturday. Despite coming into the game winless at 0-5, Group 4 Scotch Plains certainly needs to get the monkey off their back with a win over Gov. Livingston, as they will look to spoil the Highlanders Senior Day celebration.
The two teams who were old Watchung Conference rivals back in the 1960s and early 1970s, last met in 2013 when the Raiders came away with a 20-14 victory. This season's matchup is an interesting one as both teams have had their challenges albeit on different sides of the ball. Gov. Livingston's offense has struggled, having been shut out in two games and is averaging just over 10 points a game. The Highlander offense has just not been able to consistently move the ball which has forced the defense to spend way too much time on the field. As for Scotch Plains, their problems have been on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders have given up an incredible 246 points in their first five games. The Raiders offense has been a bit more productive, scoring an average of 23 point per game. However, when your defense is giving up close to 50 a game, you don't win many football games, hence the 0-5 Raider record.
The key to a Gov. Livingston victory will be to win the line of scrimmage, specifically the offensive line. Scotch Plains knowing that Gov. Livingston virtually never puts the ball in the air will stack the box to stop the Highlander ground game. If backs Jayson Schmidt and Dylan Dwyer can get some push from the big boys upfront they could both have big days. Holding onto to the ball and going on long sustained drives will go a long way in neutralizing the Scotch Plains offense. QB Drew Rittman should be looking down field for sure handed Chris Bruno if the ground game stalls. Any failure to score in the Red Zone will come back to haunt the Highlanders as their one-dimensional offense just doesn't produce enough scoring opportunities.
Scotch Plains can put points on the board with Anthony Porter (117-835, 6TD) and Alex Oslislo (84-438, 5TD) leading the way. Versatile Porter has proven he can do it all. Last year, used primarily as a receiver, (42 rec., 7 TD) the senior has been pressed into the role of a run first QB for the Raiders. Gov. Livingston linebackers Jake Pencek, Chris Bruno , and Drew Rittman will need another strong effort to check Porter, who has ripped of several long TD runs this season. Raider senior Oslislo is a solid complimentary runner who has been a big backfield contributor since his sophomore year. Just like the O-Line , the Highlander D-Line needs to control the point of attack. Historically, under veteran coach Mark Ciccotelli, the Raiders put the ball in the air 35 plus times a game. However, this season, the Raiders have kept it mostly on the ground. It will be interesting to see how Scotch Plains chooses to attack the Gov. Livingston defense in search of their first win. Whichever way Porter and the Raiders do come at the Gov. Livingston defense, it will be critical for senior defensive backs Jake Faulkner, Matt Richel, and Noah Truncale to stay disciplined in their assignments.
So will it be the Gov. Livingston offense or the Scotch Plains defense that steps up in this one? Probably a bit of both, but the game will be won by the team who plays turnover and penalty free football.
Gov. Livingston athletics was dealt a double blow when two sport star James Snyder went down in the second game of the football season with a knee injury. Senior Snyder, the Highlanders leading rusher will not only miss the remainder of the football season, but the defending Union County and District champ will also miss his senior wrestling campaign. This past week, Snyder was nominated for the "Heart of a Giant " award, which recognizes players in the Tri-State area who demonstrate unparalleled work ethic and passion for the game.
Gov. Livingston has three games remaining before the state playoff seedings on October 28th. After the Scotch Plains game, the Highlanders play away at Del Valley (4-2) and then host Rahway (4-1). If the Highlanders are fortunate enough to get by SPF on Saturday, if they split the two remaining games, they will not generate enough power points to make the playoffs. They will have to run the table to qualify.
Gov. Livingston will finish up the season with their annual Thanksgiving day game with New Providence. The Pioneers (6-0) are currently undefeated and it looks like they have an outside chance of coming into the Thanksgiving day game with an unblemished record. The Pioneers would have to win out in the Group 1 state playoffs to still be perfect on Turkey day. That’s unlikely, but it would make a Highlander Thanksgiving day win even more special.
Since opening the 2013 season with a victory over Gov. Livingston, Scotch Plains football has fallen on some hard times going 7-47 over the past 5 ½ seasons. One has to wonder about the state of New jersey High school football when a program like Scotch Plains with such a rich football tradition has slipped so far.