BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston Highlanders defeated the New Providence Pioneers, 10-0, in the annual Thanksgiving Day Football Game between the two schools.
Since the beginning of the annual Thanksgiving game, the Pioneers have defeated the Highlanders for the majority of the rivalry. Last year, however, Governor Livingston won on New Providence's home turf.
Before kick-off, twenty-one GL football seniors were recognized. Stephen Disko ’16 and Nick DeLuca ’16 both found the times they spent with their teammates memorable and unlike any other.
"The lasting memory I will have from GL Football is the pride that we take in our team and the program,” Disko said, “We really created a family bond as a team.” Deluca added, “There’s no better feeling than winning, but I would have to say my best memories were with the guys I played with.”
Going out on the field as a unit for the last time, those seniors took their bond and put it to the test against New Providence.
The kickoff from the Pioneers signaled the beginning of the battle. Behind quarterback Matt Bruno ‘16, the GL offense was able to grind down the field in the first few minutes of the game.
Russell Davidson and Carter Stumpf of the Pioneer defense slowed down the Highlanders. After long drives down the field, GL was stuck with a fourth down, looking to score the first points of the game. Thirty-two yards from the end zone, the Highlanders took a field goal opportunity as junior Doug Anderson put GL on the board.
New Providence sophomore quarterback Jack Barletta connected on a few key passes, but the team came up short of a score.
With a minute left in the first, the GL offense was poised one yard from the end zone. After three attempts, the Highlanders were unable to produce points. On fourth down, however, Stephen Sottosanti ’16 punched in a touchdown with 0.06 seconds on the clock—leaving GL up 10-0 at the end of the half.
“It’s a great feeling to beat New Prov for the second year in a row. It’s a cultivation of all the hard work we put in this season,” said senior middle linebacker Manoli Kanellos, “I can’t thank my D-line enough for their persistence and motivation. This really was just a great win.”
Behind junior linemen Dan Tomlinson, Brian Biskadurous, and Ben Collins, the Pioneer offense could not find the gaps. Highlander linebackers Manoli Kanellos, Anthony Wong, Matt Rothfeld, and Turner Haddad also worked relentlessly in conjunction with the linemen.
“I’m really happy for Coach Scuderi, our defensive coordinator, to get his first shutout, especially since it was against New Prov,” lineman Ben Collins ’17 said, “It was a great way to send the seniors off; it makes me proud to be a Highlander.”
New Provident kept the pressure up throughout the game, making plays when it counted most. Barletta’s connections with the wide receivers kept the GL defense on its toes but the Pioneers could not capitalize on their opportunities.
Although the Pioneers had two chances to score in the last few minutes, the GL defense ultimately led the Highlanders to victory.
Some of the 2015 squad made GL history in the process. Returning starters from last year are the elite few who beat New Providence twice in their high school careers—back-to-back, including Senior Anthony Wong.
“Beating New Prov twice feels so incredible, it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” Wong said, “All of the hard work that this team has done throughout the summer, off-season, and throughout the entire season really paid off. The amount that we’ve improved is so great and it ultimately led to this shutout against our biggest rival.”
“I’m really proud of the seniors for coming out with a win on Thanksgiving,” Guyton said, “They led the underclassmen the whole season. We never wavered, even when we faced adversity, and I think that’s really important. It was great to see the seniors go out with a win—they deserve it.”
Picture credits: Lauren Boyd, Anne Hardina and Mike Kerr