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Phillipsburg 41, Montgomery 16 – Mid-State 37 Delaware Division football – Rapid Recap

The final score in no way reflected the intensity of competition at Montgomery Friday as the Stateliners let the Cougars hang around far too long before putting the game on ice with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.

In a recurring theme this season, Phillipsburg (6-0, 5-0 division) played a flat, inconsistent first half. Montgomery (1-6, 0-4), behind very impressive sophomore quarterback Ryan Furey, a mobile, nifty and tenacious type, actually led 9-7 at one point before the Stateliners went up for good at 14-9 at the half.

“I have to fix these first halves; that’s on me,” Phillipsburg head coach Frank Duffy said. “I would categorize our play tonight as poor. Not just sub-par, but poor. We shot ourselves in the foot and missed a lot of opportunities. We still have not played all four quarters of a game yet.”

The Cougars’ productive passing game (284 yards) had the Stateliners back on their heels for much of the game until Phillipsburg got its running game going in the second half. Junior tailback Joe Green, who ran for touchdowns of 6, 12 and 60 yards, gained 187 of his 199 yards in the second half.

Joe Kowalczyk’s 27-yard pick-six late in the fourth quarter sealed the win for the Stateliners.

“My first touchdown,” the junior linebacker said. “Hey, I’m a Joe, like Joe Green, so I had to score too.”

But Kowalczyk spoke for all the Stateliners when he said what the team needs to do with 7-0 North Hunterdon arriving at Maloney Stadium next week for a huge showdown.

“We have to be better focused, we have to really focus from even before when the game starts,” he said. “Everyone has to stay focused on their job to play to the best of their ability.”

As Phillipsburg senior defensive end Jalen Boothman (three sacks, two tackles for loss) said, “This was unacceptable to us. We got better in the second half, but if we play four quarters of Phillipsburg football, we should kick everyone’s butt.”

Turning point: With Montgomery having closed within 21-16 late in the third quarter, Green took a handoff on the first play and roared 60 yards off the left side with 18 seconds left in the quarter to give Phillipsburg some breathing room.

Top performer: Phillipsburg sophomore wide receiver Ray Poremba caught 4 passes for 61 yards including his first career touchdown on a 17-yard pass from Jack Stagaard in the second quarter.

What it means: Phillipsburg did not play well and still won, the mark of a good team. But the Stateliners will have to be much, much sharper against North Hunterdon. Two good quarters will not cut it against the Lions, who showed their mettle with a last-second win over Hillsborough Friday.

Brad Wilson may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.

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