It looked like a mismatch on paper.
But as it turned out, Stephen Davis just played bigger.
And it was the 5-foot-8 Phillipsburg High School senior that stood tall after stopping Hunterdon Central’s Anthony Valentino on a two-point conversion attempt with 32 seconds left to preserve the Stateliners' 14-12 win over the Red Devils on Friday night at Maloney Stadium.
“We play man-to-man in that situation and I saw my guy lined up outside,” Davis said. “I knew they were going to run a slant and try to pick us easy. I saw the tight end go in the flat and (Valentino) kind of ran a lazy route and I just broke on the ball.”
“That was just a great play,” Phillipsburg coach Frank Duffy said. “(Davis) has been Mr. Everything for us so far this season and he made a great play when we needed one.”
Hunterdon Central (0-2 overall and in the Mid-State 37 Delaware Division) had just driven 87 yards in less than two minutes to cut the P’burg lead to 14-12. The Red Devils, who had battled back from a 14-0 halftime deficit, were obviously lining up for two to possibly send the game to overtime.
Central quarterback Clayton Lancaster, whose 7-yard touchdown run moments earlier, put the Red Devils in a position to tie, took the shotgun snap, rolled to his left and fired a strike to Valentino.
Valentino, who stands a head taller than Davis, was hit immediately and dropped at the 3.
“I’m just glad (Valentino) cut his route a little short,” Davis said.
Phillipsburg (2-0 overall and division) dominated the first half, taking a 14-0 lead into the locker room at half, but sputtered after the break.
Quarterback Jack Stagaard ran for the Stateliners' first touchdown – a 2-yard effort on fourth-and-goal during the first play of the second quarter – and Joe Green had a 4-yard TD run on P’burg’s next possession.
Stagaard completed 13 of 23 passes for 137 yards, and Green led the 'Liners with 87 yards on 16 carries.
Lancaster, who passed for 254 yards on 17 of 23 passing, led the Devils deep into P’burg territory on four straight possessions. Two of those resulted in Logan Matthews field goals (41 and 38 yards) and another his TD run. Matthews also missed a field goal attempt of 22 yards.
“We faced some adversity and were able to hang on,” Duffy said. “That’s what I’m most proud of. Not making excuses, but we had guys sick all week, missing practice and it showed. But we came out and grinded. We also didn’t make the most of some of our opportunities. We took our shots and some of them didn’t work out, but we gutted out the win.”