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Stephen Davis plays cornerback at an all-league level for Phillipsburg’s 4-2 football team.

But not that long ago, the Stateliner junior didn’t especially want to be play cornerback at all – at any level.

“We had some preseason injuries at cornerback and the coaches asked me step in and said, ‘We need you’,” said Davis, who was playing strong safety. “I did not like it at all at first. Later in the preseason I got to like it but not at first. The coaches really drilled me in practice and that’s when I got better. If the coaches had not really pushed me during practice I don’t think I would be playing at the level I am now.”

Davis’ high level of pass defense will be crucial when Phillipsburg (4-2) travels toNorth Hunterdon (4-3) to play at Singley Field for the first time since 2010 Friday at 7 p.m.

That’s because Lion junior quarterback Matt Busher (81-for-168 passing, 928 yards, 8 TDs, 4 interceptions) has a talented group of receivers such as Jared McMahon (39 catches, 382 yards), Kayson Woolford (7 catches, 152 yards) andJacob Berg (18 catches, 267 yards) that can cause havoc if not tightly controlled.

“The biggest challenge I see us facing is a quarterback (Busher) who stands tall in the pocket,” Davis said. “If I give him one little look he’ll fling the ball right down the field. He waits for his (receivers) to come open down the field. If I read my keys I’ll be OK but I know he’ll stand tall.”

Davis stands plenty tall in coverage despite being 5-feet-8.

“He’s pretty natural at cornerback,” Stateliner head coach Frank Duffy said. “We really needed a cornerback, and Stephen is athletic, has that good hip turn, the ability to contort his body, and good ball skills and those are all things good cornerbacks need. I think the most demanding and athletic position on the field is cornerback. Once Stephen started to feel comfortable and embrace the position, he’s really come on.”

Davis showed how far he’s come when he made a terrific play for his first career interception in last Friday’s 14-6 defeat of Montgomery. Davis defended an out-and-up pattern as well as it can be done, positioned himself perfectly as the ball arrived and made his initial pick to stop a Cougar scoring threat.

“(Montgomery) loves trick plays and gadget plays and big plays and it was getting near then end of the half so I thought they might use one; what did they have to lose? All of my coaches pounded into us that we couldn’t let them make the catch on these trick plays. I kept looking for one, and on (the interception) once I saw the receiver sit down I slowed my backpedal a little but I started back again when I saw the quarterback staring down my side of the field.”

Davis liked the feeling from the takeaway.

“I was excited to get the first interception; I had breakups before but not picks,” Davis said. “It felt good, but one is not enough. I want to get more.”

Sounds like Stephen Davis has found a true home in his new Stateliner spot – even if he came reluctantly to it at first.

Brad Wilson may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.

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