BERKELEY HEIGHTS – Coming off its first winning season in 10 years the Highlanders will seek to build upon that lofty achievement without the benefit of a bevy of players who started last year.
“We had four juniors on our roster in 2018 and we were still able to finish 6-5, which was the program’s first winning season since 2008,” seventh-year head coach Dan Guyton.
GL managed to finish over .500 by closing with a three-game winning streak. First came consolation wins over Middlesex County foes Carteret and Spotswood and then a fifth consecutive Thanksgiving Day triumph over New Providence.
GL and Cranford were the only two Union County schools that did not play a regular season crossover game against a Middlesex County opponent last year. GL, which will continue playing New Providence on Thanksgiving for at least this year, again will not face a Middlesex County opponent among its first eight games.
The Mid-State and Greater Middlesex conferences merge in 2021.
Last year’s season-ending success, Guyton explains, was due to a very strong senior class and contributing sophomores, especially standout running back Jayson Schmidt.
One of only two returning starters – along with senior offensive lineman-linebacker Brendan Curran – Schmidt produced a year in which he rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. Similar success as a junior this season will depend on how GL’s revamped offensive line comes together.
“We were able to attract eight more seniors to the program this year, but many of them have never played football or have not played since playing in grade school,” Guyton said. “We have 22 freshmen for our 2019 season and a full youth BHPAL team in both the 7th and 8th grades.
“Our program has fielded a full freshmen team each year since I took over in 2013. We continue to fight the good fight by getting the message out that the risk vs. rewards ‘high school football-contact sports’ debate should be no debate at all.
“Our focus is on defense first where we will be replacing 11 senior starters from the 2018 season and on creating a disciplined and efficient offensive attack. Our only goals are to be disciplined, extremely hard-working, possess laser focus and to be the best possible football team that we can be.”
Schmidt, GL’s team leader, also starts at cornerback. Justin VanOostendorp, Peter Iossa, Luke Stallone, Curran and Zachary Glenn will lead GL’s offensive and defensive lines along with senior newcomer Devin Veron and juniors Connor Splaine, Avery Koehn and Matthew Kazanecki.
Senior newcomer Peyton Hopeck, Matthew Murowski and Nich Richel will command the defense at linebacker.
The secondary includes quarterback Victor Chait at strong safety, newcomer Matthew Quinn at cornerback opposite Schmidt and rising sophomore Joe Riggi at safety.
Chait will be able to hand the ball off to a slew of running backs, including Schmidt, Riggi, Quinn, Richel, Murowski and James Carbone at wingback. The tight end is Hopeck and the ends are seniors Andrew Sieczka, Blake Johnson, Peter Woo, Blaine Gyory and rising sophomore Roman Andre.
Connor Tracy is the placekicker.
GL opens Week Zero at North Plainfield on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. at Krausche Field. The home-opener is Week One vs. Warren Hills on Sept. 14.
The Mid-State Conference’s Mountain Division has a different alignment this year. The seven schools in the division are North Plainfield, Somerville, GL, Rahway, Summit, Voorhees and Warren Hills.
Cranford is out, while Summit and Warren Hills are in.
Somerville is the defending champion.
GL remains in the section North, Group 3 for 2019.
GUYTON ON SCHMIDT: “Jayson was forced to step up sooner last year after (senior) James Snyder tore his ACL in our second game vs. Voorhees. It was supposed to be a tandem with him and James.
“As the season went on he just continued to improve and he helped a big senior class go out with a winning record. He had a great game on Thanksgiving against New Providence and sealed it with a big run.
“He participated in winter track as a hurdler, a sprinter and a high jumper. He also plays baseball in the spring.
“He’s a hard-worker in the weight room. We’re really excited to see what he brings to the table this year.
“He’s also at cornerback for us. With his speed and our schedule we need athletes to cover people.”
GUYTON ON CHAIT: “He played a little bit on defense last year at strong safety when (senior) Jake Faulkner went down with a shoulder injury. Victor had a couple of interceptions. He was also our junior varsity quarterback all year.
“He’s really a physical defensive player, he loves to hit.
“With our Single Wing offense he’s a physical runner and he can also throw the ball. We look for him to have a big junior year.”
GUYTON ON SOME INEXPERIENCE AND STILL
PLAYING ON THANKSGIVING: “This will be a good test of our program. We’ll see how we as coaches develop our younger players. How are we teaching and coaching these kids?
“It’s been a really exciting summer and pre-season so far.
“We enjoy playing on Thanksgiving and are glad to still have our game with New Providence. It’s a great game for both communities and it’s what high school football is all about.”
OFFENSE: Single Wing
RETURNING STARTERS (2):
RB-DB Jayson Schmidt, junior, (6-0, 180)
OL-LB Brendan Curran, senior, (5-10, 175)
TOP NEWCOMERS (12):
RB-LB Peyton Hopeck, senior, (6-0, 190)
OL-DL Justin Van Oostendorp, senior, (6-1, 240)
QB-DB Victor Chait, junior, (6-1, 170)
OL-DL Zachary Glenn, junior, (6-3, 210)
OL-DL Peter Iossa, junior, (6-0, 220)
RB-LB Matthew Murwoski, junior, (5-10, 170)
RB-DB Matthew Quinn, junior, (5-10, 160)
RB-LB Nicholas Richel, junior, (5-9, 180)
OL-DL Luke Stallone, junior, (6-0, 230)
OL-LB Connor Splaine, junior, (5-11, 195)
RB-DB Joe Riggi, sophomore, (5-8, 160)
K-QB-DB Connor Tracy, sophomore, (5-109, 160)
TOP LETTERMEN LOST (15):
Chris Bruno, RB-LB
Dylan DeFronzo, OL-DL
Colin Dooley, OL-DL
Matt Emblad, OL-DL
Jake Faulkner, WR-DB
Brendan Fenton, WR-DB
Diego Lopez, OL-DL
Jake Pencek, RB-LB
Aidan Quigley, OL-DL
Matt Richel, RB-DB
Andrew Rittman, QB-LB
Noah Truncale, WR-DB
Charlie Wojtczak, TE-DL
GOV. LIVINGSTON 2019
Sept. 6 at North Plainfield, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 Warren Hills, 2 p.m.
Sept. 20 at Rahway, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 Voorhees, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Johnson, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 Summit, 1 p.m.
Oct. 25 Somerville, 7 p.m.
Nov. 2 Delaware Valley, 2 p.m.
Nov. 28 New Providence, 10:30 a.m.
Head coach: Dan Guyton,
2018 HIGHLANDERS (6-5)
(H) GL 21, Johnson 14
(A) Voorhees 14, GL 7
(A) Cranford 35, GL 0
(H) GL 32, North Plainfield 16
(A) Somerville 58, GL 0
(H) GL 28, Scotch Plains 12
(A) Delaware Valley 35, GL 28
(H) Rahway 49, GL 0
(A) GL 28, Carteret 25
(H) GL 45, Spotswood 27
(A) GL 28, New Providence 17
Head coach: Dan Guyton,
Section: North, Group 3
Conference: Mid-State 36
Division: Mountain, 1-4
Points for: 217
Points against: 302
GOV. LIVINGSTON HIGHLANDERS
Head Coach: Dan Guyton, since 2013.
A 1998 Gov. Livingston graduate.
Seventh season: 26-35 (.426)
Conference: Mid-State 37
Section: North, Group 3
GL’s last playoff season: 2013
2018: (6-5 and 1-4, fifth in Mountain Division)
Frey Field: Turf.
Guyton guided GL to its first winning campaign in 10 years
last season, with the Highlanders finishing 6-5. GL was 7-5
in 2008. Guyton has also led GL to five consecutive
season-ending Thanksgiving Day victories over neighborhood
rival New Providence. Guyton has also 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 now 4-1
in sectional consolation contests, having won two of them
last year. 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 six years ago with GL.