Governor Livingston Highlanders see plenty of positive steps

Governor Livingston High School football team’s captains for 2023 stand with second-year head coach Pete Ramiccio. From left are seniors James Campbell, No. 52; Owen Chait, No. 4; Matt Shaffer, No. 2; and John Fajardo, No. 5.

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – There were plenty of positive steps in head coach Pete Ramiccio’s first season as head coach.

“It was definitely different from being at Montclair,” said Ramiccio, who served as an interim head coach for the football team at Montclair High School for the 2021 season, before coming to Berkeley Heights last season to become a full-fledged head coach for the first time.

“Last year, at this time, we were in the process of rebuilding,” Ramiccio said. “It was a lot of fun. We did some good things. There was a three-win improvement.”

There’s plenty of more optimism for the 2023 season, after the Highlanders improved to 4-7 last year, including a three-game winning streak in September.

“After a full off-season, there’s pure excitement,” Ramiccio said. “Our kids are bigger, faster and stronger and have benefitted from three days a week in the weight room since January. We’ve seen the progress and who the leaders are.”

Governor Livingston High School’s captains this year are seniors James Campbell, Matt Shaffer, Owen Chait and John Fajardo.
Campbell leads both lines and is seen as someone who has the dual role of providing key blocking for Governor Livingston’s skill players and then, on defense, is a threat to get to the quarterback.

“John embodies who you want in those roles,” Ramiccio said. “Of 83 workouts we’ve had, he was there 83 times. He’s our ring leader.”
After playing basketball, Fajardo was back to the workouts in the spring. Shaffer excelled in baseball and Chait in lacrosse in the spring before continuing their football workouts.

“Our philosophy is that we want the kids to compete,” Ramiccio. “The more sports they play the better from a learning and wanting to compete standpoint.”

Representing the Highlanders

• James Campbell, No. 52, senior, OL-DL
• Matt Shaffer, No. 2, senior, WR-CB
• Owen Chait, No. 4, senior, RB-ILB
• John Fajardo, No. 5, senior, RB-TE-ILB

Last year, Governor Livingston opened with road setbacks at neighborhood rival New Providence and at Arthur L. Johnson high schools. This year, they open with both at home, seeking to come out of the gate a bit stronger this time.

“We’re ready to take a bigger step,” Ramiccio said. “We have 6 or 7 kids back on both sides. If we get off to a good start, we should be OK.”

The Highlanders do not have your typical schedule this year. They opened at home against New Providence High School on Friday, Aug. 18.

For example:

Their first two games are before Labor Day and start at 4 p.m.

Two of their first three games are on Thursdays.

Three of their first five games have 4 p.m. kickoffs.

“Yeah, it’s not your usual kind of schedule,” Ramiccio said.
Governor Livingston has five of its nine games at home, including three of its first four.

The night game at home this year is against United Silver Division rival Carteret High School on Friday, Oct. 6.

2023 Governor Livingston Highlanders

• Friday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m., New Providence High School
• Thursday, Aug. 31, at 4 p.m., Arthur L. Johnson High School
• Friday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m., at North Plainfield High School
• Thursday, Sept. 14, at 4 p.m., J.P. Stevens High School
• Friday, Sept. 22, at 6 p.m., at John F. Kennedy Memorial High School
• Thursday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m., at South Plainfield High School
• Friday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m., Carteret High School
• Saturday, Oct. 14, at 1 p.m., at South River High School
• Saturday, Oct. 21, at 1 p.m., Bernards High School

Photo by JR Parachini