Standing along the sideline of a Phillipsburg football scrimmage in August, a Stateliner fan watched senior Garrett Boures take a handoff and blast off tackle with the force of an Acela train trying to make up time.
“He’s running hard,” the fan said, then paused, and added: “But he always runs hard.”
There can’t be a much higher compliment for a Phillipsburg football player. On a team loaded with players with high-energy motors for Boures to stand out in that marks him as a leader, which he is (a co-captain), and a major contributor as the Stateliners prepare for their Mid-State 38 Delaware Division season opener at Franklin on Friday (7 p.m.).
Boures likes what he sees from the Stateliners so far.
“We’re starting to click as a unit,” he said in a post-practice interview Tuesday. “We have a lot of guys in new spots so it takes some time to come together. Our running game is starting to open up. You could see that in the Elizabeth scrimmage, we were breaking some big runs.”
Boures is a critical cog in the two key P’burg units charged with the running game – both running and stopping the run. He ran for 267 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior and makes a classic pairing with classmate and fellow co-captain Ja’Quan Jones (994 yards, 12 TDs in 2015).
“That’s kind of the way I think about it, Ja’Quan is Mr. Outside while I am Mr. Inside, the ground-and-pound guy," Boures said. "I need to get better at running through contact, though, a lot better. Ja’Quan is a little faster than me (Boures said that with a broad smile) and I’ll block for him all game. Our goal is the shove their ball right down defense’s throats, keeping gaining yards and keep running the ball.”
Meanwhile on defense Boures’ role is to stop the opposition from doing that to Phillipsburg. He plays middle linebacker is what could be a very stingy defense towards the run.
“Our front six should be awesome,” he said, and indeed in scrimmages the interior defense has been impressive. Given that first-year head coach Frank Duffy’s philosophy is “run the ball and stop the run,” Boures’ efforts play an enormous role in achieving that goal.
Of course, it’s not just about the ground game. Boures identified a pass-defense area as where he needs to improve on.
“I want to get better in my pass drops, to be quicker to getting into them and knowing where I am supposed to be,” he said. “It’s really important to be aware of which receivers are in your area. Our secondary is a little young but it’s getting there, and it’s been looking pretty good.”
As crucial as Boures’ play is to Phillipsburg, his leadership may mean even more. He and his fellow senior captains – Jones, Robert Melise, Zach Troxell, and Danny Fisher – will provide the fuel for the Stateliners’ fire.
“Senior leadership is huge,” Duffy said. “That’s what takes you through the tough times, the highs and lows, throughout the season, and there will be tough times, there always are. In my experience, the seniors get you through that.”
This fall’s senior style seems a bit different than 2015’s.
“Our captains last year were good captains but a little quiet,” Boures said. “There’s a lot more talk than last year. We get everyone riled up.”
Duffy said such involvement is critical for a football team.
“(Discipline) can’t be on us (the coaches) all of the time,” he said. “These captains have been pretty vocal. They’re not afraid to ket somebody know when things aren’t going the way they should or something’s not meeting expectations.”
And this being Phillipsburg, the program with the most wins in state football history, the expectations are always high, all the time, starting with division titles and going to sectional crowns and wins over Easton, none of which the Stateliners achieved in 2015.
“We want to win everything; in this town, there’s no losing,” Boures said. “People look at you differently when you win. You know you’re winning from the way people look at you.”
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.