Phillipsburg 24, North Hunterdon 17 -- Rapid Recap
The Stateliners rallied from a 17-10 fourth-quarter deficit and held off the Lions to pick up a thrilling win in front of a impressive crowd on a chilly night at Singley Field in Clinton Township,
Two one-yard fourth-quarter touchdown runs by Stateliner quarterback Danny Fisher put Phillipsburg (5-2) ahead, the last one coming with 3 minutes and 20 seconds to play.
The Lions (4-4), led by an all-out effort from junior quarterback Matt Busher with his arm and his legs, responded by marching to the P’burg 5 but were stopped on downs from there. Stateliner junior cornerback Stephen Davis broke up a pass in the end zone on fourth down with 20 seconds left.
“We need a battle like this,” said Phillipsburg fullback/middle linebacker Garrett Boures, who ran for 83 tough yards and a touchdown. “We needed to find out about ourselves.”
North Hunterdon played a terrific all-around game, led by the dynamic Busher, whose moxie almosr carried the Lions to the win, junior wide receiver/defensive back Jared McMahon (5 catches, 70 yards; interception) and junior defensive back Kyle Hensler. They took the lead at 17-10 with 9:45 to play on a 27-yard TD pass from Busher to McMahin and a 2-point pass from Busher to senior Jacob Berg. But turnovers and penalties held the hosts back and allowed Phillipsburg back in the game. North Hunterdon has not beaten Phillipsburg since 1997, though this was the first meeting since 2011.
Turning point: With 3:46 to play in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 17, the Lions forced a P’burg punt from the Stateliner 49. The ball came down to North sophomore Griffin Horthy around the Lion 20, where he probably should have called a fair catch. Enter Stateliner junior long snapper Jake Sabo. “I ran down the field and I didn’t see him wave his hand,” Sabo said. “So I just hit him and went right through him.” The classic tackle popped the ball loose, which was recovered by Stateliner sophomore James Kowalczyk at the North 15. One play later, Fisher scored the go-ahead touchdown.
Top performer: It had to be Matt Busher, even in a losing effort, for the Lions. He threw for 166 yards and a touchdown and ran for 85 and another touchdown. Busher kept his team’s hopes alive until the very end as he willed them forward.
What it means: Phillipsburg gets a huge boost in North 2 Group 4 playoff points and may have a shot at a home quarterfinal game now. “I want to play at Maloney as much as I can,” Fisher said. A win in such a riveting, back-and-forth donnybrook will boost the Stateliners’ confidence as well. As for the Lions, they gave a magnificent effort and could well have come away with a win; this was a game it was a shame someone had to lose. North's sectional playoff hopes may have taken a major hit with the defeat.
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.