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Phillipsburg 28, Hunterdon Central 14 -- Mid-State 38 Delaware Division football

Charles Dickens could have written the script for this one.

Because it was a tale of two halves.

Tied at 14 at the half, and it clearly being anybody’s game as the hosts’ big-play offense was rolling, Phillipsburg (3-0, 2-0 division) rallied to play magnificent football over the last 24 minutes to escape an inspired and physical bunch of Red Devils in front of a standing-room only crowd at Central’s Stewart Field.

Senior running back Joe Green ran for 203 yards and touchdowns of 4, 18 and 22 yards as the physicality of Phillipsburg took over in the second half and the Red Devils (0-2, 0-2) had no response.

“I think we ground them down in the second half,” Green said. “I felt confident we’d be able to do that. My line did a great job.”

Phillipsburg, ranked No. 5 in the region by lehighvalleylive, won its sixth straight game against Central.

Turning point: With 6:30 left in the fourth quarter, Hunterdon Central, trailing by 21-14, tried a hook-and-lateral from its own 31. The lateral, which would have produced a minimal gain at best, was fumbled and recovered by Stateliner junior safety Tommy Coury. Three plays later, Green scored the clinching TD from 22 yards out. “Sterling Walker-Sutton made a huge hit and I was able to fall on the ball,” Coury said.

Top performers: Have to pick two for the Stateliners. Green ran for three touchdowns and provided the kind of crunching ground game Phillipsburg needed to control the game. And senior middle linebacker Mark Zgoda was magnificent at middle linebacker, especially in the second half when the Stateliner defense really rallied to shut Central out.

What it means: Phillipsburg passed a huge test of how they’d respond to adversity. “I want to thank Hunterdon Central for playing so hard,” Zgoda said. “We can’t cakewalk through every team. We needed to be hit in the face and we’re better off for it.”

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

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