BALANCED, PHYSICAL PHILLIPSBURG FOOTBALL POUNDS NORTH HUNTERDON IN PLAYOFF OPENER
Phillipsburg 49, North Hunterdon 7 -- NJSIAA North 2 Group 4 football quarterfinal
Powered by a breakout game from sophomore tailback Matt Quetel, the Stateliners sprinted out to a 35-7 halftime lead and rolled from there over the Lions in front of a big crowd at Maloney Stadium.
Phillipsburg (8-1) earned a measure of revenge for its 21-20 loss to North Hunterdon (3-6) in last season’s North 2 Group 4 championship.
“It felt amazing to beat them,” said senior quarterback Jack Stagaard, who threw four touchdown passes. "Especially for our seniors last year, a lot of whom were here tonight. That felt good for them."
Quetel scored on a 10-yard TD pass and a 35-yard TD run in the first quarter and ended with 88 yards rushing and 35 receiving.
“It felt really good to be able to make the most of my opportunity,” Quetel said.
The win moved the Stateliners, the top seed in N2 G4, into a home semifinal against No. 5 seed Cranford (6-3) Friday (7 p.m.)
North Hunterdon’s score came on a 9-yard TD pass from junior Cole Mathews to senior wide receiver Griffin Honthy in the second quarter that cut the lead to 21-7 but the Lions had no answer for Phillipsburg’s diversfied and dangerous offense.
“We started the game with a tackle for loss and a lost fumble and you can’t do that against a team like this,” North coach Jared Mazzetta said.
Turning point: Phillipsburg, leading 14-0, faced a 3rd-and-14 at its own 38 with about 5 minutes left in the second quarter. North Hunterdon’s rush and coverage forced Stagaard to scramble. He gained 10 yards but was short and the Stateliners would have had to punt. But the Lions were flagged for a face mask penalty to keep the drive alive. Two plays Quetel took a toss 35 yards for a touchdown and a decisive 21-0 lead for the hosts.
Top North Hunterdon performer: In his final game, Honthy completed a pass and caught six passes for 108 yards. “We wanted to get him the ball anyway we could,” Mazzetta said. “He plays with a lot of heart.”
Top Phillipsburg performer: How about the sophomore Quetel making a huge impact in the postseason? He scored the two first-quarter touchdowns, showing off his speed and power, and also displayed savvy running the ball to the marker. Quetel offers a nice change of pace from Joe Green in the backfield.
What it means: The Stateliners will host No. 5 seed Cranford, which defeated No. 4 Linden 30-12 Friday, next Friday (Nov. 9) at Maloney Stadium in a N2 G4 semifinal. Phillipsburg had some issues against North Hunterdon, missing a field goal, giving up some big pass plays, and sputtering some running the ball inside, but were opportunistic, aggressive and physical allowing them to dominate. The Lions finished an up-and-down season with the knowledge that they battled throughout to make the playoffs when that seemed unlikely, and kept the Milk Can for the seventh straight season with a win over Voorhees.
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.