BERKELEY HEIGHTS – Ethan Proper flashed some impressive offensive skill for the Gov. Livingston boys’ soccer team last season, and the talented junior has continued to flourish this fall.

Proper delivered another clinic on Tuesday when he delivered three goals and sophomore Alex Pitt also scored as the Highlanders defeated Linden 4-3.

“There’s no doubt Ethan has been coming on for us,” said Highlanders’ assistant coach Kevin Fontana. “That was his first hat trick and he’s been our biggest threat offensively. Last year as a sophomore he really grew and found the net more and that has carried into this year where he’s really a consistent offensive threat.”

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Gov. Livingston, which improved to 4-3-1, built a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by Proper before Linden rallied to knot the game at 2-2 at the half. But the Highlanders came out in the second and got goals from Proper and Pitt to rebuild its two-goal lead and never relinquished it.

“It was an exciting win for us,” Fontana said. “We moved Alex up to forward and he and Ethan really clicked. As a whole, our team is really moving the ball a lot better.”

Another aspect for the Highlanders is at the other end, where their defensive play has been very sound.

Senior captain Connor Bigelow has been very sound in goal as well as proving superb leadership while Fontana also credited senior Jeremy Malave and junior Matt Chin at fullbacks along with juniors J.T. Naldi and Ray Barnum and senior Zach Zacieracha.

“They’ve all been doing a great job keeping the ball out of the net,” Fontana observed, “and our defensive play has really improved. Last year we were still a young team and we had multiple sophomores and juniors and a couple of freshmen starting. You can see that extra year of growth and experience has made a difference and given us lot of confidence.”

One setback the Highlanders must deal with is the injury bug.

Two standouts were lost recently as senior Ben Grimes suffered a broken nose against New Providence and junior Alessio Marisi broke his hand.

“They’re two very solid starters for us,” said Fontana, “but we’re hoping to have Ben back within a week or two. Alessio is probably out for a month or so but we’re hoping to get him back before the end of the season.”

Gov. Livingston will hit the road for its next two contests when it travels to play Rahway on Thursday before heading into Somerset County to battle Bridgewater-Raritan on Saturday.

“We’re certainly focused on Rahway on Thursday,” Fontana said. “They’re a good team and a Group 3 school so it will be tough. We’re becoming confident that we can string some passes together and put the ball consistently. If we do that, we can win the game.”