Phillipsburg opened the competitive part of its football season with a top-shelf quad scrimmage Wednesday morning when Newton, St. John Vianney and Wayne Hills invaded the turf field at the PAC in Lopatcong Township.
While it can be hard to gauge a whole lot from half-field first scrimmages in mid-August, the Stateliners got in some high-quality action against strong teams who went a combined 29-5 in 2017. Here’s nine takeaways from the scrimmage.
1. Powerfully physical
Sometimes scrimmages can be more mockup than real football, but not this one. Bodies were flying and crunching hits delivered.
“I liked our physicality,” Phillipsburg head coach Frank Duffy said. “I liked our intensity. We showed we can match the intensity of other good teams.”
2. Fast from the whistle
Tempos can be an issue at the first scrimmage; sometimes it can take a while to get to game speed.
Not this time. The Stateliners were fired up from the start and it showed.
“There was no slow start,” Duffy said. “That was very big. I liked our enthusiasm and our effort.”
3. Fans flock to PAC
There are varsity football teams that draw fewer fans to games than Phillipsburg had for the scrimmage. The fans were plentiful and made noise in mid-season form.
4. Familiar mistakes
Phillipsburg fans who might be trying to forget the pair of painful losses at the close of the 2017 season were jarred back in time by the same kind Stateliner errors that allowed wins over Easton and North Hunterdon to slip away – fumbles and kicking mistakes.
“We had some ball security issues and we’re working on that,” Duffy said. “And we had a blocked point after and that can never happen.” Duffy said otherwise the mistakes were what he sort-of expected.
“Typical things,” he said. “We missed a couple of opportunities and we have to execute better.”
5. Remember this name
Sophomore running back Matt Quetel.
He was number 26, the one slashing and dicing the perimeter of some very good defenses.
Quetel is the brother of senior Joe Green, who ran for 1,055 yards in 2017 despite missing five games (more or less) with injuries.
“He’s still learning, but we’re looking to get him carries,” Duffy said.
Green, by the way, looked just fine punishing defenders on tough runs between the tackles.
6. Old friends
Duffy had to reconstruct the scrimmage after two of the usual attendees, Warren Hills and Union, wound up on the Stateliners’ schedule this fall.
“We started looking for teams in January and we wanted the best teams we could find,” he said. “I coached with (Newton coach) Matt Parzero for a year at North Warren and they were (North 1 Group 2) champions in 2017, they had a heck of a year.”
7. Position switch
Stateliner fans used to seeing senior Sterling Walker-Sutton at wide receiver or running back may have blinked to see him excelling at his new spot – tight end.
“He fires off the ball,” Duffy said.
8. New line looks fine
The Stateliners’ offensive line is all-new after standouts such as Nick Josselyn and Patrick Sharpe – who both were in attendance Wednesday – graduated.
Duffy was pretty pleased with his new unit of center Christopher Gurneak, guards Matt Cherry and Ryan Fisher, and tackles Jeff Vitale (converted from fullback), Luke Evers and Kyle Sofhauser, who battled against some very big and very quick foes, especially from St. John Vianney, pretty well.
9. After the catch
Senior wide receiver Ray Stem made some fine catches but what caught the eye was the sharpness and elusiveness he showed running with the receptions. Perhaps a candidate for an end-around or two?
Brad Wilson may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.