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7 takeaways from Phillipsburg’s big opening football win

Phillipsburg made a real statement in its 14-7 season-opening football win at Sayreville, one that most state experts (except this one, ahem) didn’t see coming.

What did the Stateliners take away from the big victory?

Road warriors

Head coach Frank Duffy liked the way his team reacted to a lengthy road trip.

“Everybody knows we have success playing at Maloney (Stadium) but it’s important for us to do well on the road,” he said. “It’s an added element playing a good team like we did – we had to made a long trek, we had to leave super-early to beat the traffic, and to come out and play the we did was good to see,” he said.

The adventure was a new experience for Duffy.

“First time ever on the (Garden State) Parkway for a game,” he said.

Phillipsburg fans can expect more such jaunts now that their conference, the Big Central, includes the Greater Middlesex Conference. One thought comes to mind: maybe, on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, keep trips as short as possible, and play the long hikes on other weekends?

Duffy wouldn’t mind shorter trips.

“That’s why we’re jealous of the EPC,” he said. “Every trip is 20 minutes.”

Duffy has clearly never been to East Stroudsburg North, but his point is taken.

First game non-jitters

The Stateliners’ mentality impressed Duffy.

“There are always a lot of unknowns before a first game, in week 1,” he said. “The toughness we showed up front really pleased me, on both sides of the ball. The offensive line really impressed me with the way we established the running game (38 carries, 287 yards), and the defensive front was solid, especially the way a guy like Jack Regan filled on the defensive line, and John Wargo, new to that spot.”

Red zone blues

Duffy did not hesitate to say where Phillipsburg must immediately improve.

“Red zone offense,” he said. “Four trips without any points. You think about it, a 14-7 game, it could have been a lot better for us. It was a little bit of a new unit, some guys in new spots, some execution things. We’ve pared down the plan a little, and that was a point of emphasis in practice (Tuesday).”

Tightening up ‘D’

Phillipsburg held Sayreville to just 256 total yards, but Duffy thinks his defense can do even more.

“We still gave up an explosion play (a 77-yard TD run by all-conference running back Zaimer Wright),” Duffy said. “Our perimeter run defense could have been better; we were a little soft at the edges.”

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Passing game needs time

Offensively, Duffy pointed to the passing game which managed just 34 yards on three catches.

“It’s going to take some time to get our passing game into rhythm, with a young QB (sophomore Jett Genovese) and a young group of receivers, we know that,” Duffy said. “But some of the passes we missed are balls we have to complete.”

Newcomers doing well

The Stateliners went into a game against a formidable foe with some inexperienced athletes at key positions.

Take inside linebacker. The spot is absolutely critical in P’burg’s 4-4 set. The Stateliners went with Liam Stack and Connor Hille, seniors but newbies.

“This is Liam’s first year as a starter, and Connor is two and a half weeks into learning the position,” Duffy said. “They were very good. They played downhill, which is very important, and their checks and gap control were very good. Overall, I was pleased.”

And, at perhaps the most important spot, quarterback, Genovese made his first varsity start.

“Jett managed the huddle very well and made good decisions with the football, and that’s exactly what we were looking for him in his first start,” Duffy said.

Specials (mostly) special

In a one-score game, special teams can tell the story. They told a good one for the Stateliners Friday.

“We were 2-for-2 on extra points, and we had good field position kickoffs and punts,” Duffy said. “Sayreville tried a little 12-yard ‘pop’ kickoff and a surprise onside kick, and we played both well. We recovered a muffed punt (in the fourth quarter), that was what iced the game. We missed a field goal, but Luke (Brogan) had the distance, just pushed it right.”

Brad Wilson may be reached at

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