It took Jalil Terrell just a little while to make a difference on the football field at Phillipsburg when he transferred over the summer from DePaul.
“Jalil didn’t start right away,” Stateliner head coach Frank Duffy said. “But he showed us what he could do and worked his way up and eventually it became obvious he was our best choice at cornerback.”
But Phillipsburg didn’t have to wait as long to make an impact on Terrell, a junior who moved from Newark to Phillipsburg over the summer.
“I was shell-shocked,” said the 5-foot-10, 165-pounder of his first game at Maloney Stadium. “DePaul doesn’t draw fans like that. I had never played in front of so many people. The crowd was loud., It was exciting.”
And ever since, Stateliner fans have been excited by Terrell’s consistent, confident cornerback play, which will likely be on constant display Friday night (7) when the Stateliners (7-0), ranked No. 4 in the region by lehighvalleylive, host Westfield (4-2) in a Mid-State 38 crossover game. It will be the final regular-season game for P’burg until the sectionals open Nov. 8 at Maloney against a foe to be determined.
Terrell, who said he has been a cornerback for most of his football career, said the home field advantage wasn’t the only difference between DePaul and Phillipsburg.
“It’s a whole different feeling with the coaches and with the way they communicate,” Terrell said. “It’s a whole different atmosphere around team. I have been playing football since I was seven years old, and the best part is going to war with a bunch of your friends. They have your back and you have theirs. That’s the most exciting part of football. This is like a brotherhood.”
Terrell and senior Ray Poremba form a solid brotherhood for the Stateliners at a key spot.
“I think cornerback is the hardest position on the field,” Duffy said. “Remember, the receiver knows where he’s going and the cornerback does not. They have double-moves, pump-fakes and all that to deal with. They are usually the best athletes on the team.”
Thus, Duffy said, P’burg’s scheme tries to make it easier on the corners.
“Our cornerbacks have to be aggressive in the run game and disciplined, and we try and keep the coverages simple so our corners can use their athleticism,” Duffy said. “We don’t have a lot of complicated coverages; the corners get locked up a lot in man-to-man coverages. We just want to let our cornerbacks play.”
Terrell said it’s a fun defense to play in.
“We play a 4-4, so I have a lot of base ‘cover 3’,’ he said. “I have to keep everything in front of me, and make secure tackles. We do a lot of press coverage so you have to have the strength to get in the faces of the receivers for the whole game. Pass coverage, honestly, is a lot of technique.”
And that’s a major strength of Terrell’s.
“Jalil has a great hip turn and ball skills in general,” Duffy said. “He’s really instinctive at the position. He has great body control.”
Terrell appreciates the praise but he said he knows he can improve.
“I have been working on my closing speed,” he said. “I need to be playing faster. I have been playing a little too slow.”
Terrell might be being a tad tough on himself, given that he tore a ligament in his knee at the end of his sophomore season and went through six months of strenuous rehab.
“It took me a while to get the feel of playing football again; that was the hardest thing,” he said.
So far at Phillipsburg, Terrell has gotten the feel of the sport down. But there’s one feeling he has yet to experience as a Stateliner -- and he’s anxious to.
“You hear about the Easton game all the time, in the halls of school, in the town, and at practice,” he said. “It’s everywhere.”
Just as Jalil Terrell is everywhere in the defensive backfield for Phillipsburg.
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.