BERKELEY HEIGHTS – Staying healthy is so important in any sport, even more in football where you play only once a week.
The right kind of depth is so crucial to any team’s progress.
“Our focus is on improving the defense first where injuries last year decimated our chances at a .500 record,” sixth-year head coach Dan Guyton said. “Going into our Somerville game we had only 19 players healthy and able to compete.
“We were able to regroup and win our last two games vs. Chatham and New Providence. Our players remember the adversity we faced last season and hopefully we can bring an added mental toughness into this year’s campaign.”
Guyton has 10 returning starters and is excited about having seven other “newcomers” he hopes to make an added impact.
“This season our emphasis is on greater discipline in all three phases, starting games with better energy and finishing what we start,” Guyton said.
GL has 20 seniors on its roster, with Guyton seeking the Highlanders to have an increase in leadership and experience. GL had only 10 seniors a year ago, the least under Guyton’s tenure.
Leading the offensive and defensive lines are Diego Lopez, Matt Elmblad, Aidan Quigley and Colin Dooley, along with junior Brendan Curran and rising sophomore Jayson Haddad.
“Lopez is the leader of our defensive line,” Guyton said.
Linebackers Chris Bruno, Jake Pencek and Drew Rittman are all returning starters at the position. GL’s secondary that finished last season’s final four games include returning cornerbacks Noah Truncale and Matt Richel along with safeties Jake Faulker and Brendan Fenton.
Rittman takes over at quarterback.
“Drew started at linebacker for us last year and had off-season shoulder surgery,” Guyton said. “It’s not from an injury. He’s got an issue where his shoulder is loose and comes out at times.
“He played with it last year. He had difficulty throwing, then had the surgery and was cleared in June to throw again.
“He’s looked fantastic all summer. He was our fastest (40 dash) player last year and had a great season for us at linebacker.
“He’s gained about 15 pounds, but has not lost any of his speed. He’s a great kid, leader and student and it’s nice to have a senior at quarterback. He’s a big boy who can block, throw and run.”
GL has a slew of returning running backs, including James Snyder, Richel, Bruno, Pencek, Jayson Schmidt and Dylan Dwyer.
“Schmidt is a talented, rising sophomore who should see his fair share of varsity carries,” Guyton said.
The tight end in GL’s spread single wing scheme is newcomer Charlie Wojtczak. Wideouts include Faulkner, Truncale, Andrew Cahill and Fenton. Cahill is also the placekicker.
“Our only goals are to work extremely hard, possess laser focus and to be the best possible football team we can be,” Guyton said.
GL opens home Aug. 30 vs. Johnson, a 3 p.m. start at Frey Field in Berkeley Heights.
“It’s crazy,” Guyton said. “The state kind of forced us to make the decision to play the early weekend or not. It was either open Week Zero and get a bye week or open later and play eight straight weekends.
“We decided to open the early week and get a bye based on having injuries in the past. I think a week off (for GL it will be the first weekend in October) will benefit us.
“Our schedule is such that every opponent we face will force us to play our best brand of football. Our program is looking for its first winning season and first playoff victory since 2008.”
GL and New Providence will remain playing on Thanksgiving this year. The Highlanders have a four-game winning streak over the Pioneers.
New Providence leads the series 25-7-2. GL’s only other wins came in 1984, 1997 and 2005.
“To see all the people on the hill and in the stands and almost the entire community there on Thanksgiving, it’s what high school football should be – about community and young men on the field,” Guyton said. “It’s a great tradition.
“If you don’t play in a sectional final it’s the seniors playing their last game and in front of the entire town. Then afterwards they can be with their family and eat turkey.
“It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Going to GL (Guyton is a 1998 GL grad) and playing New Providence is one of those special things that our community has.
“People say there is a need to get rid of it. I say it’s the best thing that we have. It’s a special thing to keep so that the players know the whole season that they need to continue to practice and improve because they know they will end up playing New Providence on Thanksgiving.
“For me it’s a blessing for us. Ask the players and coaches and they would say that they wouldn’t change it for anything.”
OFFENSE: Spread Single Wing
RETURNING STARTERS (10):
RB-LB Chris Bruno, senior, (6-1, 175)
OL-DL Matt Elmblad, senior, (5-8, 200)
WR-DB Jake Faulkner, senior, (6-3, 155)
OL-DL Diego Lopez, senior, (6-0, 230)
RB-LB Jake Pencek, senior, (6-0, 175)
RB-DB Matt Richel, senior, (6-0, 160)
QB-DB Drew Rittman, senior, (6-1, 160)
RB-LB James Snyder, senior, (5-8, 155)
RB-DB Noah Truncale, senior, (5-6, 130)
QB-LB Dylan Dwyer, senior, (5-11, 155)
TOP NEWCOMERS (7):
WR-DB Brendan Fenton, senior, (5-10, 155)
OL-DL Aidan Quigley, senior, (5-10, 210)
RB-DB Jayson Schmidt, sophomore, (6-0, 140)
WR-DB Andrew Cahill, senior, (6-0, 165)
OL-LB Brendan Curran, junior, (5-10, 175)
OL-DL Jayson Haddad, sophomore, (6-4, 245)
TE-DL Charlie Wojtczak, senior, (6-1, 240)
TOP LETTERMEN LOST (10):
Ryan Carriker, wide receiver-defensive back
Pat DeAngelis, quarterback-defensive back
Perry Everson, running back-defensive back
DJ Gonnelli, two-way lineman
Brandon Gvory, two-way lineman
John Jeffords, two-way lineman
Mike Magliacano, two-way lineman
Matt Perez-Santalla, running back-linebacker
Matthew Schuman, wide receiver-defensive back
Jared VanOostendorp, two-way lineman
GL HIGHLANDERS 2018
Aug. 30 Johnson, 3 p.m.
Sept. 7 at Voorhees, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Cranford, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 North Plainfield, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 at Somerville, 1 p.m.
Oct. 13 Scotch Plains, 1 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Delaware Valley, 7 p.m.
Oct. 27 Rahway, 1 p.m.
Nov. 22 at New Providence, 10:30 a.m.
Head coach: Dan Guyton,
2017 GL HIGHLANDERS (3-7)
(H) Voorhees 23, Gov. Livingston 0 at Kean
(A) Rahway 42, Gov. Livingston 14
(H) Gov. Livingston 36, North Plainfield 29
(A) Summit 35, Gov. Livingston 8
(A) Somerville 60, Gov. Livingston 7
(H) Cranford 38, Gov. Livingston 0
(A) Delaware Valley 28, Gov. Livingston 6
(A) Johnson 41, Gov. Livingston 6
(A) Gov. Livingston 26, Chatham 7
(H) Gov. Livingston 28, New Providence 13
Head coach: Dan Guyton,
Section: North 2, Group 3
Conference: Mid-State 38
Division: Mountain, 1-4
Points for: 131
Points against: 316
GOV. LIVINGSTON HIGHLANDERS
Head Coach: Dan Guyton, since 2013.
A 1998 Gov. Livingston graduate.
Sixth season: 20-30 (.400)
Conference: Mid-State 36
Section: North, Group 3
GL’s last playoff season: 2013
2017: (3-7 and 1-4, fifth in Mountain Division)
GL’s Frey Field: Field Turf.
Guyton has guided GL to three 4-6 finishes and one
5-5 record, which was in 2014. He is 0-2 in playoff
games – both in North 2, Group 3 – and 2-1 in
sectional consolation contests.
Guyton was previously an assistant coach at GL
for seven seasons, including his last in 2008 when
the Highlanders reached the N2, G2 final. He then
served as an assistant coach at Johnson before landing
his first job as a head coach five years ago with GL.
Guyton is seeking to lead GL to its first winning season
since the Highlanders went 7-5 in 2008. Guyton has led
GL to four consecutive season-ending Thanksgiving Day
victories over neighborhood rival New Providence.