5 TAKEAWAYS FROM PHILLIPSBURG'S FOOTBALL WIN OVER FRANKLIN
Balance achieved. Phillipsburg head coach Frank Duffy had made it clear his offense could not be ground-bound as it was in 2016 and that a better run/pass balance would be required this fall. Based on the Franklin win, Duffy appears to have found it. The Stateliners ran for 200 yards and threw for 133 in the win. At one point in the first half, the Stateliners threw seven straight passes. The yardage number might well have been higher had junior quarterback Jack Stagaard found some open receivers, but the junior had admitted before the game that his first start at Maloney Stadium might see him a little too excited. Next time, Stagaard may be even more productive than 133 yards and two touchdowns. He was only sacked once, too, and Duffy thought "the line did a great job of protecting the passer."
Tackling drills ahead. Franklin's collection of nifty, hard-to-get-a-bead-on runners such as quarterback Tony Scott, running back Dalen Merricks and wide receiver Clayborne Fields III are never going to be easy to contain and bring down even against the best tacklers in the country. Phillipsburg was far from that in the first half, especially, when arm tackles, over-pursuit and poor pursuit combine to threaten to allow Franklin big play after big play. But the Stateliners were much sharper after the half. Merricks' last four carries, for example, went for minus-8 yards. and Jalen Boothman, Sean Morro and Jeff Vitale, among others, delivered some filling-shaking blows.
Tommy Coury special on special teams. The Phillipsburg sophomore wide receiver made the most of his appearances on the field. He scored a touchdown when he recovered a Franklin fumble on a kickoff return in the end zone after, it must be said, a perfect kickoff from senior Billy Oertel that died on the sideline, but in bounds, at the Warriors' 2. Then, on the very next play, again a kickoff, Coury showed his nose for the ball was no fluke when he recovered a pooched short kickoff. Aggressive special teams play attacking the ball like Coury's could pay dividends all season.
Takeaway win. In addition to Coury's work, Phillipsburg got an interception from Justyce Branch and a fumble recovery from Jaleel Boothman, for four takeaways. The Stateliners did not turn the ball over. That's a winning formula every time.
Nasir Ball is fast. The Stateliner junior's 62-yard TD scamper with a Stagaard swing pass electrified the stands. Ball outraced Franklin's fleet defensive secondary easily. He's a potential six points on every play.
Brad Wilson may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.