FOURTH QUARTER SURGE CARRIES PHILLIPSBURG FOOTBALL OVER HILLSBOROUGH
Phillipsburg 35, Hillsborough 7 – Mid-State 37 Delaware Division football – Rapid Recap
Phillipsburg junior running back Joe Green’sthree touchdowns and 284 rushing yards on 41 carries propelled the Stateliners to a solid win and clinched at least a share of the division championship in front of a big crowd enjoying fall weather at last at Maloney Stadium.
Green, running behind a Phillipsburg offensive line that slowly and progressively took over the game like a Burmese python methodically suffocating its prey, scored on runs of 1, 4, and 78 yards as the Stateliners moved to 4-0 on the season overall and in the division.
The win was clinched with 5:27 to go in the game when Phillipsburg junior linebacker Mark Zgoda took an interception return 43 yards for a score. The Stateliners scored 28 points in the fourth quarter as they took over a game in the second half for the second week running.
The first half was dominated by both teams’ defenses. The Stateliners, led by senior lineman Zach Leong, junior linebacker Christopher Gurneak and senior defensive end Jalen Boothman, held Hillsborough (2-2. 1-2) to 13 yards rushing on 9 carries in the first half. All five Raider first-half possessions ended in punts as they managed 70 yards of total offense.
Two of Phillipsburg’s first three possessions reached Hillsborough territory, but all three ended with punts. However, the Stateliners struck gold on their fourth possession, a 13-play, 81-yard drive that gobbled up 6 minutes and 11 seconds of the clock. 10 of the plays were runs by Green, who scored on a 1-yard TD run with 7:40 left in the half. Billy Oertel’s PAT made it 7-0.
Two key conversions on the scoring drive were a 15-yard pass to senior tight end Sean Morro from junior quarterback Jack Stagaard on third-and-4 from the Stateliner 39 and a four-yard QB sneak by Stagaard to convert 4th-and-1 from the Raider 37.
Phillipsburg probably should have been up 14-0 at the half. A 60-yard strike from Stagaard to Morro, who stumbled and bumbled and danced for at least 40 yards after the catch, set the Stateliners up at the Hillsborough 13. From there, Stagaard found junior fullback Jeffrey Vitale for a touchdown but the play was called back for a block in the back and the drive ended on downs. Vitale would get his TD for the game for sure on a 2-yard fourth-quarter carry. The second half opened with the visitors opening the big play store, going 67 yards in 4 plays to the tie the game on a 34-yard pass from senior quarterback Matt Moore to senior wide receiver Justin Brown running right down the slot. The drive also featured a 20-yard pass and 25-yard run.
Turning point: Green’s 78-yard touchdown burst with 9:28 left in the fourth quarter turned the game into a two-possession situation for Hillsborough and that was too deep a hole for the Raiders to scramble out of.
Top performer: Green, obviously. Senior tight end/linebacker Morro made five catches for 96 yards and was all over the field on defense as well, and the Stateliner offensive line was terrific.
What it means: The Stateliners are a win away from hanging a new championship banner in their gym. Hillsborough is a rugged and worthy foe and Phillipsburg proved equal to the challenge. Once again, the difference in a game came from the Stateliner lines. Skill-position wise, the talent was equal if not slightly in the Raiders’ favor; that pure Phillipsburg toughness up front proved decisive.
Brad Wilson may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.