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Phillipsburg 21, Irvington 20 – NJSIAA North 2 Group 4 semifinal – Rapid Recap

The Stateliners will play for their eighth sectional title after getting past Irvington – barely --- Friday night at Maloney Stadium.

Blue Knight quarterback Brandon Robinson’s two-point pass hit the turf with 1 minute and 20 seconds left to preserve the one-point lead, and Phillipsburg recovered the ensuing squib kick after a wild scramble to preserve the win against a dynamic and demanding foe in the Blue Knights (8-3). Robinson’s legs and arm (242 yards rushing and passing) proved a major challenge for the Stateliners.

“That was the most athletic team we played all season,” said Stateliner junior linebacker Mark Zgoda, who posted a fumble recovery amid a generally strong game. “(Robinson) is a great football player. “We really had to dig down and do whatever we needed to do to win like tough Phillipsburg players do.”

The Stateliners (10-0) had gone ahead with 4:36 left in the fourth quarter on a remarkable fourth-down play.

Facing 4th-and-4 from the Irvington 32, junior quarterback Jack Stagaard found a wide-open sophomore wide receiver Ray Poremba for a touchdown to break a 14-all tie.

“The cornerback had been sitting up on the fly route all day, and we just hadn’t executed,” Poremba said. “We dug in and got the job done in the fourth quarter.”

Turning point: Poremba’s touchdown catch. Before that it was anybody’s game. After that, the hosts enjoyed a tenuous command.

Top performers: For once, this is hard to pick because it was such a team effort for Phillipsburg. But the Stateliner defensive line of Jalen Boothman, Jaleel Boothman, Zach Leong and Nick Josselyn – all seniors – really rose up in the second to limit Robinson’s slippery scrambling and opportunistic bursts on the ground. “Both coach Hulls (defensive coordinator Scott and defensive end coach Sam Hull) to us at halftime to dig down and do our jobs,” said Jalen Boothman, who had two sacks. “We had to be able to tackle Robinson and keep contain on him so we could make plays on him.” Zgoda said, “It was all due to our defensive line tonight.”

What it means: Phillipsburg will meet North Hunterdon (10-1) for the North 2 Group 4 championship at a site, date (Nov. 30, Dec. 1-3) and time to be announced. North defeated defending champions Sayreville 29-7 Fridat night. The Stateliners defeated the Lions 20-7 on Oct. 27 at Maloney. And it shows that Phillipsburg can be a formidable for even when far from its best. “Sometimes a bunch of kids do a great job of holding together and getting the job done,” Phillipsburg head coach Frank Duffy said. “Good teams find a way to win.”

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

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