BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Governor Livingston Highlanders football team picked up its first win of the season Friday night after defeating the North Plainfield Canucks, 24-13. Governor Livingston’s 24 points are a new season-high. With the win, Governor Livingston improved to 1-2 while North Plainfield remains winless at 0-2.
Governor Livingston head coach Dan Guyton was relieved to finally be in the win column.
“I’m very proud of the kids for picking up their first win of the season,” Guyton said. “They fought hard all night. I give North Plainfield a lot of credit too because they fought hard as well. It was a very physical game.”
Governor Livingston’s Pat DeAngelis was the star of the night. The sophomore signal caller both threw and ran for a score. DeAngelis grew up in front of his coaching staff’s eyes on Friday night which is exactly what Guyton hoped would happen.
“Pat grew up a lot tonight,” Guyton said. “We made it a point of emphasis to get him involved more tonight. For a sophomore to lead the team the way he did tonight was great to watch.”
DeAngelis’ 57-yard first quarter touchdown pass to Will Nicholson got things rolling offensively for the Highlanders. The touchdown was preceded by a bevy of running plays that helped open up the deep pass.
The Highlanders’ offense maintained possession for much for first half thanks to the hard running of Nicholson and Evan Lerch and the crafty running style of DeAngelis.
Governor Livingston’s ball control offense combined with a stifling defensive effort led by Matt Bruno and Manoli Kanelos helped hold the Canucks scoreless the entire first half.
“Our defense, especially our defensive line, stepped up big time tonight and played well,” Guyton said. “Matt Bruno was fantastic leading the way tonight at defensive end along with Manoli Kanelos who played great at middle linebacker.”
North Plainfield’s defense also played a major role in the first half’s defensive slugfest. Outside of Nicholson’s early score and Doug Anderson’s field goal just before halftime to put Governor Livingston up 10-0, the Canucks were stout for the most part.
North Plainfield head coach Robert Lake just wishes his team’s offensive production could’ve matched its defensive production in the first half.
“We knew coming in that Governor Livingston is a grind-it-out team that loves to run the ball,” Lake said. “I just thought we’d be a little more effective offensively in the first half. When you only run 12 plays in a half, like we did in the first half, it’s hard to get into a rhythm that way.”
North Plainfield’s offense wasted no time getting into a rhythm on their very first possession of the second half. The Canucks took a page out of Governor Livingston’s book in chewing a lot of time off the clock on that opening second half drive.
The Canucks, led by quarterback Nick Cherasaro, had a nice balance of run and pass and kept the Governor Livingston defense on its heels. The drive’s key play came on a fourth-and-seven at the Governor Livingston 31-yard line. With no options downfield, Cherasero scrambled 11 yards for the first down to the 20-yard line.
The Canucks would capitalize six plays later when Cherasero found his big target, Arthur Gilmore, in the back of the end zone for the six-yard score. After the extra point, the Canucks were down just three and seemed to have all the momentum.
“On that drive, we just went back to the basics,” Lake said. “Nick’s scramble play on that fourth down was big and kept the drive going.”
Cherasaro’s scramble was just one of many nice plays for the signal caller on the night and his coach certainly took notice.
“Nick did some nice things out there tonight and I was pleased with him for the most part,” Lake said. “He displayed a lot of poise tonight and threw some nice balls out there.”
The North Plainfield defense was unable to take advantage of the momentum created by Cherasaro, Gilmore, and the rest of the North Plainfield offense.
Much like the first half, the Highlanders continuously pounded away in the run game on their ensuing possession.
Lerch capped the drive with a six-yard touchdown run to put his team ahead 17-7 just before the end of the third quarter. Lerch’s touchdown seemed to take a lot of life out of the Canucks which helped Guyton’s team avoid the “dogfight” he sensed coming.
“After North Plainfield drove down and scored, I said to our coaches we have to go down and score right now or else it would be a dogfight the rest of the way,” Guyton said.
North Plainfield didn’t get much of a chance to respond to Lerch’s touchdown due to a lost fumble on its very first play of the ensuing possession. The Highlanders recovered at the North Plainfield 38-yard line and proceeded to march right back down the field and score. This time it was DeAngelis that scored from six yards out to give his team a 24-7 lead with under six minutes remaining in the game.
The fumble that led to DeAngelis’ score was one of a plethora of costly North Plainfield miscues.
“Critical mistakes at key times did us in tonight,” Lake said. “And the fact that they were able to convert on our mistakes certainly didn’t help. Bad penalties and sloppy play by us played a huge role in the game's outcome."
The game’s final score came when Cherasaro connected with Karon Gock on a 58-yard touchdown score with 3:42 remaining.
The Canucks were unable to get the ball back on their onside kick attempt. The Highlanders would go on to run out the clock.