PHILLIPSBURG FOOTBALL EXPLODES IN SECOND HALF TO HAMMER HILLSBOROUGH
Phillipsburg 56, Hillsborough 6 -- Mid-State 38 Delaware Division football -- Rapid Recap
The night started perfectly for the Stateliners and ended even better as they scored 42 second-half points in an utterly dominating performance on the Raiders’ artificial turf field.
Phillipsburg (5-1, 4-0 division) scored on the game’s first play from scrimmage on a 64-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jack Stagaard (13-for-16, 268 yards, 3 TDs) to senior wide receiver Ray Stem (2 catches, 93 yards, 2 TDs).
“We have been going over that play all week,” Stagaard said.
Hillsborough (3-3, 2-3) hung in the game at the half, down just 14-0, but the Stateliners absolutely buried the hosts with a 28-point third quarter. They scored 21 points in the first 5:16 of the period, helped by two Raider turnovers.
“When we start clicking on offense we can be a tough team to stop,” Stagaard said. “We have such a special unit on offense.”
The Raiders keyed on Phillipsburg senior tailback Joe Green, holding him to 66 hard-fought yards but Green still scored two touchdowns on runs of 4 and 5 yards.
“They keyed on Joe but that opened up the passing game,” Stagaard said. “When teams key on the passing game, it opens up the run.”
Phillipsburg, which played almost all reserves in the fourth quarter and gave up a touchdown on the game’s final play, outgained Hillsborough 367-210 and produced the best pass rush of the season on defense with three sacks.
Turning point: Hillsborough was still in the game at the half, down 14-0, and since the Raiders received the second-half kickoff they had hopes of getting right back in the game. Those hopes did not last long. A first-down run stuff by junior middle linebacker Bobby Coury and two incomplete passes led to a short punt and a 16-yard runback by senior Nasir Ball with the Stateliners starting at the hosts’ 35. One play later Stagaard hit Stem for a 29-yard touchdown with 10:23 left in the third quarter and it was all Phillipsburg after that. “It was huge to get that 3-and-out to start the second half,” Phillipsburg head coach Frank Duffy said. “I am so proud of the way our defense performed tonight.” The Stateliners came up with four takeaways including a 57-yard pick-six by Coury.
Top performer: Stagaard almost couldn’t have been better, and his performance drew admiring comments even from the Hillsborough veterans in the press box. “On the sideline we were saying Jack was on fire,” Stem said. En fuego may not sum it up -- Stagaard couldn’t miss as he completed passes to five different receivers; he converted a key 4th down with a completion; he fired into traffic for completions; and with, once again, zero interceptions. “My line did a great job tonight,” Stagaard said.
What it means: Phillipsburg’s final regular-season game at Ridge on Oct. 19 will decide the divisional championship. The second half may have seen the Stateliners’ best performance of the season all-around -- even the Stateliner reserves showed off some moxie and flash. “We still have a lot of things to work on,” senior defensive end Kyree Wallace said. “We still have not hit our full potential.” That’s may well be true - and perhaps scary for future foes -- but this win offers a solid base to build on going forward. “We’ll enjoy this for 24 hours, and then it’s on to Westfield (next Friday at home),” Stem said.
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.