9 REASONS WHY PHILLIPSBURG CRUSHED HILLSBOROUGH
Phillipsburg clinched a share of the Mid-State 37 Delaware Division football championship Thursday night with a 35-7 defeat of Hillsborough in front of a packed house at Maloney Stadium.
The Stateliners (4-0 overall and division), ranked No. 5 in the region by lehighvalleylive, scored 28 fourth-quarter points to break open a 7-all game in the third quarter.
Scroll through the story to see nine key reasons why Phillipsburg prevailed.
The junior running back piled up 284 yards on 41 carries, both career highs, and scored touchdowns of 1, 4, and 78 yards.
Most of Green's yards came on hard, leg-pumping, pile-moving runs between the tackles. And a lot of them.
"I could run 50 times a game, or 100," Green said. "I like to get the ball."
Green was somewhat muted before the half (19 carries, 81 yards) but after the half,he was en fuego.
"It was crazy," he said, "I think our offensive line really stepped up in the second half, and so did I."
Green's 78-yard burst that proved the game's deciding moment in the fourth period came on a play where the line parted the Hillsborough defense as Moses did the Red Sea. The Raiders hustled back and tripped Green at the 1-yard line but could not keep him from the end zone.
"I don't like to look back; I didn't hear the guy coming," Green said. "If he'd caught me I am sure I would have heard about it from my teammates, but most of all I'd have been mad at myself."
Green admitted he was pretty excited by his performance, even if it was somewhat tempered by having to go to school Friday instead of the usual Saturday off following a game.
"It's only a half-day though," he said with a smile.
Green put in a full day Thursday, for sure.
"I think Joe is the best running back in the Lehigh Valley," P'burg senior tight end/linebacker Sean Morro said.
The Stateliner junior safety capped a strong game with a 43-yard pick-six of Raider QB Matt Moore in the fourth quarter to clinch the win.
Hillsborough QB Matt Moore (6) throws the ball for an interception late in the game against Phillipsburg. The ball was returned for a touchdown by Mark Zgoda of Phillipsburg. (Saed Hindash | For lehighvalleylive.com)
Phillipsburg didn't sack Moore once, but he hardly had a comfortable night, going 14-for-31 passing for 190 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, by Zgoda and senior defensive back Justyce Branch.
"The defense did a phenomenal job," Stateliner head coach Frank Duffy said. "We put a lot of pressure on Moore even if we didn't sack him. You saw what they could do when he had time. Our front four (Jalen Boothman, Nick Josselyn, Zach Leong, Jaleel Boothman) did a great job."
Disrupting Moore's rhythm didn't allow him to find a comfort zone with his pair of 6-foot-3 seniors Justin Brown and Jackson Parham. Brown did haul in a 34-yard TD pass, but other than that Phillipsburg limited his big-play capability, a capability obvious every time Hillsborough ran a play.
"We really had to keep them out of big plays," senior linebacker Sean Morro said. "If they'd hit one or two they'd have had all then momentum to play with."
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Stateliner senior made an enormous impact on the game on both side of the ball.
On offense, he caught five passes for 96 yards, including several clutch catches to move the chains.
"I love how Sean uses his body and his long arms to catch the ball," Duffy said. "He reaches out with those long arms and goes and gets the football."
As a blocker, he and fellow tight end Jevon Boothman fueled the Phillipsburg run game.
"There were some sets Hillsborough was giving us on defense that the only way we could run the ball was double-tight-end," Duffy said. "That's fine. We'll play a little old-fashioned Phillipsburg football. Nothing wrong with that."
The Stateliners did an outstanding job of taking away Hillsborough's running game. Raider senior running back Tyler Boatwright entered the game averaging over 11 yards a carry (348 yards on 30 carries). Against Phillipsburg, he ended up with 39 yards on 14 carries, less than 3 yards a rush. Hillsborough ran for all of 58 yards on 16 rushes.
It's becoming increasingly clear just what Phillipsburg missed last year when quarterback Jack Stagaard missed most of the season with an injury.
Thursday, Stagaard completed 13 of 26 passes for 156 yards. He was not sacked and not intercepted -- both of those are huge pluses. Sure, he missed some open receivers and made some mistakes.
But Stagaard gives Phillipsburg a weapon in the air it lacked in 2016.
And as a junior he's only going to get better.
"Jack's starting to get into a rhythm with me and the receivers," said Morro, naming several Stateliner receivers. "He's really starting to develop a good chemistry."
It helps the run game too.
"When Jack finds Sean, Ray Stem, Ray Poremba, Stephen Davis, it opens things up for me to run," Green said.
Asked why the Phillipsburg offensive line had been able to take the game over after halftime, Stateliner senior center Pat Sharpe had a brief answer.
"One word -- our culture,' Sharpe said.
The Stateliner culture on the lines is simple. They bring it. You had best be ready.
"They had a couple of guys on defense go out and you could tell we were starting to dominate," Sharpe said. "We beat the hell out of them. You feel it. They wanted to go home."
That's how a team scored 28 unanswered fourth-quarter points. But the Stateliners aren't settling for such success.
"We can always play better," Sharpe said. "There's always something to get better at."
That's a scary thought.
Mistake free (almost)
Phillipsburg almost kept a clean sheet on the mistake front Thursday.
The Stateliners did not turn the ball over. Indeed, they never fumbled at all; Green carried 41 times with nary a slip toting the rock.
Phillipsburg only had two penalties, though admittedly one flag did call back a touchdown.
On special teams, which cost the Stateliners dearly in last year's loss to Hillsborough, Phillipsburg was efficient and effective even with a new face in a key spot. Due to injury, senior James Yarnell started at long snapper. He was near-perfect.
Avoiding mistakes made a major difference for the Stateliners.
For two weeks in a row Phillipsburg has dominated in the second half against good teams. What's working?
"I just think we have great kids," Duffy said. "I have a good staff who puts the kids in positions to make plays but ultimately the kids have to make the plays. I am very proud of them."
The team can feel something happening as well.
"If we keep improving and working hard, I think we can be special," Morro said. "I think we can have a special year."
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.