Phillipsburg High School’s football team won games on the final play the last two weeks.
Friday against Hillsborough, however, the Stateliners left no doubt. They also left the field with a third straight division crown.
Phillipsburg, ranked fourth by lehighvalleylive, defeated Hillsborough 28-7 on Friday night at Maloney Stadium to improve to 6-0 and capture the Mid-State 38 Delaware Division title.
“To be able to put a team like Hillsborough away like that -- they have a lot of talent -- and to put a team like them away, it really boosts our confidence and brings up a whole other level,” senior defensive end Robert Martin said. “Especially after two close games, we know that we’re going to face some even better teams down the road; and we have a big game that everyone knows about.”
After trailing early in tough wins against Ridge and Bridgewater, the Stateliners were determined end that trend against the Raiders. Hillsborough deferred the coin toss and Phillipsburg wasted no time taking advantage.
Running back Matt Quetel took two runs for 13 and 7 yards, before quarterback Ben Ries faked a handoff rolled out of the pocket. The senior found Ray Poremba deep and connected for a 42-yard touchdown.
“The key is to get comfortable with your first pass play, being that our first pass play was a touchdown on a play-action just made everything a lot easier,” Ries said. “It’s amazing how much of an athlete (Poremba) is. Genetic freak, really, and then his ability to make plays in open space. (He) broke a couple tackles and then cut back and scored. He’s super-valuable to us and I’m really happy I can throw to him.”
Poremba’s early touchdown gave Phillipsburg momentum and seemed to stun Hillsborough, which was forced to punt on each of its four possessions in the first half. The Stateliners, however, scored on their first three possessions thanks to touchdown runs from Isaiah Craighead and Quetel.
“We go into the game wanting to use our weapons like Matt Quetel and Poremba on the play action. When our opponents are adjusting and we need to find another way to score, our coaches are so good at adjusting and finding the best way to score,” Martin said.
The Stateliners kept Hillsborough’s defense off-balance all night, mixing in heavy doses of Quetel on the ground with play-action passes. The junior tailback tallied 130 of his 182 yards in the first half. Reis finished the game with 114 yards passing.
Trailing at half 21-0, the Raiders came out with a more run-heavy offense and marched deep into Phillipsburg territory on a drive that lasted close to 10 minutes. A roughing the punter call against Phillipsburg moved Hillsborough close to the red zone, but Martin and the Stateliners pass rush found an answer.
A run for a loss was followed by two incompletions, and on third-and-long dual-threat quarterback Tom Ramsey rolled out hoping to extend the drive. Martin came around the edge and was there to provide a crucial sack.
“We were just trying to get off the field and get our offense back on to win the game,” Martin said. “It was just a speed rush to try and get outside of the tackle and give it everything I got.”
Phillipsburg’s pass rush and physical defense not only slowed down Hillsborough’s offense, but also motivated the Stateliners offense to keep building the lead.
“It really helps to be engaged in the game. Just being excited for the defense gets your blood flowing, and gets you ready to score on offense,” Ries said. “Just watching the defense do their thing and make plays really helped me stay in the game.”
A late touchdown toss from Ramsey to Tony Scanelli was followed up by Quetel’s second rushing touchdown of the night, which sealed the win.
Now sitting at 6-0, Phillipsburg will travel to North Hunterdon before wrapping up the regular season at home against Westfield.
“Now, we go to our second and first goals, beat Easton and win states. We still have to take it week by week though and, in time, those will come,” Ries said.
Desmond Boyle may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DesJBoyle. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.