Nasir Taylor-Holloway makes a lot of moves on the football field.
But the Phillipsburg senior defensive end’s biggest move was becoming a Stateliner.
Taylor-Holloway arrived in Phillipsburg in the middle of his junior season, where he had been playing for Central High School in Newark.
“Phillipsburg is a totally different place,” Taylor-Holloway said. “In Newark it’s always kind of crazy. In Phillipsburg it’s a lot more calm. Safety was an issue in Newark. I feel a lot more safe here.”
While Taylor-Holloway feels safer living in the city of Phillipsburg, it’s more and more dangerous for opposing linemen and ball carriers to come around his defensive end spot.
“Nasir plays hard with a lot of energy,” P’burg head coach Frank Duffy said. “He plays very hard.”
Taylor-Holloway’s play has been a highlight for a stingy Stateliner defense that has been key to an unbeaten start to the season, a start Phillipsburg (5-0, 4-0 division) hopes to continue when Hillsborough (4-1, 3-1) visits Maloney Stadium Friday night (7) for a Mid-State 38 Delaware Division clash.
The Stateliners, who have won 15 straight divisional games dating back to 2016, will wrap up their third straight solo division championship with the win.
Playing at Maloney is something Taylor-Holloway adjusted to without any problem,.
“I have never played in front of crowds like that until I came to Phillipsburg,” he said.
Taylor-Holloway has fit right into the Stateliner football tradition -- but it wasn’t necessarily easy.
“It was kind of a hard move to make (in the middle of the year),” said the 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior. “There was a lot of different things I had to adjust to and a lot of new faces.”
And a whole new place.
“I didn’t know anything about Phillipsburg,” he said. “I’d heard of them when they played Irvington in the (North 2 Group 4) playoffs (in 2017) because I had some friends who played for Irvington.”
Taylor-Holloway had little difficulty adjusting on the football side -- he fit the Stateliner culture well.
“The practices at Phillipsburg are a lot different than at Newark Central,” he said. “The practices are more realistic here. I am working harder and it is a lot more competitive. My teammates are pushing me and helping me to be better.”
Duffy said that works both ways with Taylor-Holloway.
“Nasir is a great practice player,” he said. “He gives our offensive tackles a great look. He makes our offensive line better.”
To go with his off-field move, Taylor-Holloway had a on-field move to make as a senior, as he was moved to defensive from linebacker.”
“I like defensive end better,” he said. “Sometimes at linebacker you have to (drop off) in pass coverage. At defensive end I get to be physical on every play.”
But Taylor-Holloway knew he had to be better overall to meet that physical challenge.
“I had to take my game up a notch,” he said. “I had to work to improve my strength, my speed and my quickness, and after our first game (Warren Hills) I realized I had to work even harder. I feel like I have improved a lot since then. I have definitely gotten better as a pass rusher. I am better at getting off the ball and using my quickness.”
Taylor-Holloway was part of the two heroic goal-line stands that saved last week’s 20-13 win at Bridgewater-Raritan.
“We practice goal-line stands every day in practice, so it was normal for us,” Taylor-Holloway said. “We just took it like it was practice.”
But Taylor-Holloway said the Stateliners took a valuable lesson from the narrow win.
“I felt we underestimated Bridgewater for sure,” he said. “We learned never to underestimate an opponent again.”
Brad Wilson may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.