Highlanders Win a Wild One, 33-21

Dally’s Two Fourth Quarter TDs Lift Governor Livingston Past Johnson

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – You couldn’t ask for a better start to the Labor Day Holiday Weekend.  After toiling in the humidity and mugginess during the Week 0 games, the weather was perfect for football.  More importantly, though, Big Central Gridiron’s Thursday afternoon contest between A.L. Johnson of Clark and Governor Livingston was a gem.  The Highlanders won a wild one, 33-21.

Trailing 21-20 going into the fourth quarter, Governor Livingston pulled out the win thanks to two rushing TDs by Jack Dally and outstanding defense down the stretch.  The Highlanders opened up the final frame with a 61-yard score on a 4th down play by Dally to go ahead 26-21 with 11:47 to play.  Then after pinning the Crusaders deep in their own territory, Governor Livingston’s defense forced Johnson Regional to punt.

Receiving the ball at about midfield, the Highlanders put the game away when Dally took a third and short handoff, rushed to his right, broke free of Johnson’s defenders, and barreled his way to the end zone again with a 43-yard run.  Although Governor Livingston missed the extra point, it led 33-21 with 1:57 left to play.  Dally, who opened the scoring with a 60-yard TD in the first period, finished with three touchdowns.

Junior QB Lucciano Santamaria also turned in a superb effort for the winners.  The diminutive signal-caller epitomized the famous Mark Twain quote, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”  Santamaria created havoc for the Crusader’s defense with his legs and arm.  He proved to be quite elusive at times, especially in the opening half as he threw two TDs to help the Highlanders take a 20-14 lead.

There were three lead changes and one tie in the contest over the first 36:13 of the contest.  Johnson QB Robert Gallagher did a very good job of keeping up with Santamaria.  Gallagher completed 4 of 9 passes for 115 yards and a TD and then rushed 5 times for 74 yards and another score.  Gallagher ran 62 yards to the end zone to give the Crusaders a game-tying score late in the first quarter and then threw a 56-yard TD pass to Ryan Volmut to give his team a 14-13 lead midway through the second.

Santamaria, who connected with Michael Geertsma on a 29-yard TD strike over the middle to give Governor Livingston a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter, struck again before the half.  After connecting with WR Michael Shaffer on a 20-yard pass completion out of a rollout to his right,  Santamaria moved the Highlanders closer to the end zone with a scramble of about another 15 yards to inside the Johnson Regional 10-yard line.  Moments later, he connected again with Shaffer on a five-yard pass for the 6-point halftime lead.

The tide seemed to turn in A.L. Johnson’s favor in the third quarter.  The Crusaders were finally able to slow down Santamaria and prevent him from making the big play.  In addition, several of Governor Livingston’s players began to cramp up.  Johnson Regional took advantage with a 28-yard score from running back Ryan George.  George, who was also a perfect 3 of 3 on PATs, added the extra point for a 21-20 lead with 9:08 remaining in the third.

The Crusaders then had another drive going late in the period.  The key play was a 39-yard hookup from Gallagher to Carlos Pina (2 catches for 49 yards) on 3rd and 23 to get to the Highlander 26-yard line with 2:40 to go in the third. Unfortunately, Johnson Regional didn’t convert the drive into points.  Penalties and turnovers hampered the Crusaders throughout.  The decisive scoring drive by the Highlanders started at their own 18-yard line after a short punt by George with 1:47 left in the third.

Governor Livingston would drive 82 yards over a span of exactly two minutes capped by Dally’s go-ahead jaunt.  The Highlander defense then forced the Crusaders to go three and out on its next possession.  Getting the ball back with 10:30 left after a nice punt from George, Governor Livingston chewed time off the clock with a steady diet of Dally running.  The Highlanders used up about 6 minutes of the clock.

Making matters worse for the Crusaders, Governor Livingston then pinned them deep with a punt to the Johnson 12-yard line.  On the first play of Johnson’s ensuing drive, Kamr McLean came up with a nice open-field tackle on a screen pass for a huge stop.  Then, the Highlanders defense took advantage of a bobbled snap, and pressured Gallagher before linebacker Chris D’Amato came up with the tackle.

Gallagher was able to complete a pass on third down, but it was short of the first down marker.  Forced to punt again, A.L. Johnson booted the ball back to Governor Livingston at about midfield.  Three plays later, Dally scored again to wrap up the victory.  The Crusaders still had time to try and get back in the game, but on the first play of their final drive, Highlander senior linebacker, Owen Chait wrapped up the victory by picking off a pass over the middle and returning it to the Johnson 23.

With the win, the Highlanders, which opened the season with a 14-7 loss to arch-rival New Providence, improved to 1-1 overall.  Johnson Regional begins its season at 0-1.  After playing its first two games at home, Governor Livingston travels to Krausche Field in North Plainfield to take on the Canucks on Friday night, September 8th at 6:00 PM.  A.L. Johnson hosts Bound Brook next Friday night at 7:00 PM.