Hanratty Works To Build Football Tradition

By Jim Whelan

Governor Livingston coach Terry Hanratty is working to build a football tradition at the Union County school.  A proven winner, Hanratty knows what it takes. The 2008 campaign brings a lot of question marks and some uncertainty, but the Highlander coach will get the most out of every player this year.

Hanratty took over a GL football program in 2004 that failed to make the states in the nine previous years. Since Hanratty took over, the Highlanders have qualified for postseason play every year. “That is our goal every year, to make the post season,” the Highlander coach said. 

Every year, the team has a different dynamic due to graduation and maturation of players. “Our offensive and defensive lines are going to dictate how we play this year. That is definitely our strength” said Hanratty, referring to his lineman core.

The Highlanders are anchored by Ian Cunningham, Matt Tansey, and Captain Paul Biser. Cunningham, as Hanratty described him, is “one of the best linemen in the state.” With the graduation of Matt Fullowan and first team Union County defender Joe Gilfedder, the 2008 squad will have to rely on the protection of the line for quarterback Max Machado and fullback Nick Manganello to move the ball on the offensive side.

One of the challenges that Hanratty has to face every year at GL is football and soccer are during the same season.  “The soccer program had 80 kids try out and we had 35, plus our baseball team started playing a fall schedule… if one or two kids decide to play another sport it can change our whole season,” said Hanratty. 

Governor Livingston is located in Berkeley Heights and it one of the few regional school systems in Union County, with students from Berkeley Heights and Mountainside attending the high school.    Most of the kids that play football play two or three other sports for the Highlanders and sometimes the sports conflict.  Students have a wide variety of choices too — from traditional high school sports, soccer and football, to fencing, ice hockey, and even playing the bagpipes. 

The facilities at the Berkeley Heights school are second to none.  “It is a great place to coach and the kids really make it a special place,” Hanratty said.    “I try to preach to the kids and other coaches who choose not to play football the benefits of playing football” said the fifth year coach. 

Hanratty brought up the example of second team all county, first team all group Matt Fullowan.  Fullowan played football for Hanratty’s team last year and the success on the gridiron transcended into success on the baseball diamond.  Fullowan’s batting average was .404 and he had 22 RBIs for the 15-12 Highlander baseball team.

During his school days, the coach played two sports at Elizabeth High School under two of the state’s legendary coaches.  Terry Hanratty was a standout safety for Coach Jerry Moore and a member of two state championship teams in 1988 and 1989.  He played with former standouts Jamil Jackson, Malik Jackson, Alcides Catanho (Rutgers University) and West Virginia stars Tommy Orr and Juan Jones. 

Hanratty also starred on the baseball diamond for Elizabeth Baseball coach Ray Korn.  In Hanratty’s senior season in 1990, the Minutemen were ranked number one in the country in baseball by USA Today before falling short to Rahway in the Union County Championship game.

Deciding to stay local and attend Kean College, Hanratty continued to play both football and baseball for the Cougars and pursued a degree in teaching.  “Timmy McManus was a mentor of mine at Elizabeth and he made coaching fun and he really was the one who influenced me to pursue a career in teaching,” said the lifelong Elizabeth resident.

After graduation, Hanratty joined Coach Jerry Moore’s staff and started coaching football at Elizabeth as an assistant.  The Minutemen won three state championships in the seven years Hanratty was there.  From there Hanratty moved over to crosstown rival Linden for three years after the Moore era at Elizabeth ended.  The opportunity to coach at GL came and Hanratty took over for the Highlanders in 2004. He is also teaching in the district. 

Hanratty brought Joe Moretti with him from Linden as an assistant, Greg Dunkerton, Danny Guyton, Andy Huber, Jeff Maretta, and John Mahon round out Hanratty’s staff at GL.  “It has been adjustment coming from a Group Four school to a Group Two school, but the game hasn’t changed, the kids want to learn.” Hanratty took the GL job at 32 years of age and is considered to be one of the best young football coaches in the state.   

“We play Johnson who has improved, Rahway which is a Group Three school, and North Plainfield which made the states last year, we have our work cut out for us this year,” said Hanratty.  GL also scheduled out-of-conference games against Iselin’s JFK and Edison’s Bishop Ahr. 

With a 25-17 record at the Union County school, Hanratty is laying the foundation for a winning program in Berkeley Heights. 

Jim Whelan be reached at njhoops@hotmail.com    

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