BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - "Fight Like A Highlander" -- was the message delivered in the pre-game locker room talk by Gov. Livingston alumni before the Thanksgiving game against New Providence, played on Saturday at Lieder Field in New Providence.
Regardless of the Highlanders' win-loss record, they battled it out for the pride and tradition of their program. A victory that has been only celebrated four times in the 33 year rivalry tradition against New Providence. Winning in 1984, 1997, 2005 -- and now 2014.
“I think that is the biggest difference between this game and other games: it all comes down to pride at the end of the game,” said Highlander alumnus John Haddad.
Both teams feel that this game presents an opportunity to go out with a victory and bragging rights to the Mayor's Cup trophy.
Head coach Dan Guyton, also an alumnus of the Highlander program, reminded his players of the pride behind this football program, telling his team that people care about them and are rooting for them. He then introduced members of the infamous '84 team. The players listened in silence as the members of the '84 team spoke words of encouragement.
GL's first win in 1984 was emotional, it was an electric -- an unbelievable atmosphere, recalled Haddad, whose brother, Jay, was on the team.
Thirty years later, teammate Carl D'Emilio ('86) spoke to this Highlander team and delivered a heartfelt message of responsibility for others:
"Thanksgiving, you are playing for your family...and you are playing for the guys that are next to you... you are playing for us... you are playing for a tradition for the school... you are playing for all of the years that came before you and all the years that go ahead of you. So, when you go out there today and you give 100-percent, you are doing it for him and him and all of the guys next to you. You should go home in pain. Not because of the guy on the other side of the line. You should go home in pain because you gave it every ounce of energy you had today. You owed it to him, to us, to each other. It is not about you today, it is about the tradition for the school. It's about the team... it's about 100-percent of every player next to you. Good luck."
Just as the famous "Win One for the Gipper" speech to the Notre Dame players at halftime of the 1928 Army game provided a great message of inspiration --D'Emilio's message is a lesson -- teaching these boys the responsibility for others.
GL's 35-14 win over New Providence on Saturday lifted the Highlanders' record to 5-5, marking their first .500 season since 2009.
For many of the players, this was their final game of organized football. Many of the memories will last their lifetimes. But what memory or moment stands out the most? That was the question posed to the senior class.
Frank Barone #44 - My favorite football memory has to be our win against New Providence senior year. Ever since we first strapped on our pads and helmets back in our PAL years we had one common goal, to beat New Providence. Playing football with my closest friends for the last ten years has been the time of my life and has provided me with the opportunity to make memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. I couldn't think of a better way to go out then beating New Providence and lifting the trophy up with my teammates.
Jimmy Longo #85 - My favorite football moment had to be the New Providence game that was just recently played. This was definitely my greatest football moment so far because we got the trophy back for GL. Also, I think this was one of the best games we played as a team. Everyone did their job and executed the plan the coaches laid out for us and it made us quite successful.
Michael Policastro #9 - I would have to say playing my last game as a Highlander with my brothers beating New Providence and holding that trophy with my team!
James Ruggiero #5 - My favorite football memory is beating New Providence for the first time in nine years and bringing the Mayor's trophy back to Governor Livingston.
Jason Reinstein #68 - Over my four years with the team and this group of seniors, we have all grown up a lot. We have gone through a lot of adversity - but we learned that no matter what, if we stick together, we can overcome anything. One of the best moments has to be raising up that trophy awarded to the winner of the Thanksgiving Day game after a 9 year drought from our school. For players like John Wills and myself, who faced season ending injuries after waiting our whole lives for our senior season, it meant the world to us to share a special moment like that. Another thing is all of the off the field things our team does, such as volunteering at the Children’s Specialized Hospital, participating in the town cleanup, and giving the Thanksgiving Day game ball to a former Highlander, Carl D'Emilio. All of these things I hold very dear to me and I will never forget them. This program led by Coach Guyton has helped shape us into model citizens and helped mature and ready us for college and everything that lies ahead. I am proud to be a part of this program, and forever thankful that I will be a Highlander football player for life. Burn The Ships.
Sean Tomlinson #71 - It's a great way to end as seniors -- going out with a BANG beating our rivals New Providence!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Andrew Zecca #10 - GL Highlander Band of Brothers...We are all in it to win it...Fail to prepare; prepare to fail Our best game…beating New Providence and making history. Dedicated to Carl Demilio.
Alex Boyd #26 - Winning my last high school football game against New Providence.