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Phillipsburg football preview, 2019: Rosters change, not goals for Stateliners

Phillipsburg Stateliners

Head coach: Frank Duffy, 25-10 entering his fourth season at Phillipsburg.

Last year: 10-3; won North 2, Group 4 championship, then lost in the North 4 bowl game to Wayne Hills, 35-21.

2019 classification: North, Group 4

Starting SI rating: 80

Division: Mid-State Delaware

Division opponents: Bridgewater-Raritan, Franklin, Hillsborough, Hunterdon Central, Ridge.

Key players: Tommy Coury, Sr., WR/LB; Bobby Coury, Sr., FB/LB; Isaiah Craighead, Sr., FB/OLB; Raymond Poremba, Sr., TE/WR/DB; Robert Martin, Sr., TE/WR/DE; Matt Quetel, Jr., RB/LB; Dan Pantuso, Sr., OT/DL; Robert Sutton, Sr., RB/OLB; Michael Gomez, Sr., K/P.

Outlook: You could probably go back to a Phillipsburg preview from five, 15, 25 years ago or more and find that both the outlooks and goals have pretty much gone untouched. The Stateliners will be playing on an artificial surface at Maloney Stadium for the first time this season, and that’s obviously a seismic change, but everything else is nostalgically familiar. The goal is to beat ancient archrival Easton (Pa.) on Thanksgiving morning, and the general outlook is as promising as the always-high expectations. Last fall, the Liners appeared in their fifth North 2, Group 4 final in six years, and won for the third time in that span with a 42-7 decision against Irvington. Phillipsburg, however, did close out the season on a down note with a 31-26 loss to Easton in their 112th meeting, and then a 35-21 setback against Wayne Hills in the North 4 bowl game. Several longstanding stars graduated from that team, including quarterback Jack Stagaard, who passed for 4,426 yards and 39 touchdowns in his career, and linebacker Mark Zgoda, who racked up over 200 tackles while wearing the garnet and grey. Stagaard’s successor is senior Ben Ries, who took only limited snaps last season, though, like Stagaard, showed a capacity to run with positive results when he needed to. The bulk of the carries, though, will be handled by running backs Matt Quetel (the returning leader with 286 yards) and Robert Sutton and fellow senior fullbacks Bobby Coury, Isaiah Craighead and Matt Kowalzcyk. And while P’Burg did lose its top receiver from 2018, Sterling Walker, it still possesses a corps of talented pass catchers led by Raymond Poremba, Tommy Coury (Bobby’s twin brother) and Robert Martin including perhaps Nasir Taylor-Holloway, Christian Chiulli, Michael Wambold, Jaleel Terrell and Danny Gale. The Stateliners lost its starting offensive line to graduation, so will be calling to Dan Pantuso, the Liners’ most experienced hog, fellow seniors William Haussman, Ethan Imboden and Devin Reppert, and junior Matt Barna to jell quickly. The kicking game remains in excellent shape with the return of senior Michael Gomez, who was 48 of 52 on PAT attempts and averaged 34.3 yards a punt last autumn. With Zgoda no longer stalking runners from this LB spot, twins Bobby and Tommy Coury take over as the club’s menaces in the middle, with plenty of help from returning OLB Craighead. Tommy Coury compiled 77 tackles as a junior, Bobby had 75, and Craighead 49. Also back on the defense is the versatile Martin (67 tackles) at end, Sutton at OLB, and Poremba in the secondary. Taylor-Holloway lines up at the other DE, Pantuso is at tackle, and Barnra or Reppert will step in as the starting nose guard. Chiulli, Terrell and Wambold join Poremba in the secondary.

Big storyline: Twins Bobby and Tommy Coury, Isaiah Craighead and Raymond Poremba direct a Phillipsburg team that lost numerous many multiple-year starters from its sectional championship team, yet still enters the season with expectations as high as always.

2019 schedule

Sept. 6: at Warren Hills, 7

Sept. 13: at Franklin, 7

Sept. 20: Hunterdon Central, 7

Sept. 27: Ridge, 7

Oct. 4: at Bridgewater-Raritan, 7

Oct. 11: Hillsborough, 7

Oct. 18: at North Hunterdon, 7

Oct. 25: Westfield, 7

Nov. 28: Easton (Pa.) at Lafayette College, 10:30

Mike Kinney may be reached at Follow him on twitter @MikeKinneyHS.

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