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A senior night to be proud of: Phillipsburg football runs over North Hunterdon

For the Phillipsburg High School football team, last week’s defeat to Watchung Hills was a bitter first loss in 2020.

The Stateliners found the perfect remedy for getting over that frustration.

A convincing 48-7 win against North Hunterdon on senior night at Maloney Stadium ought to help the Stateliners' morale as the regular season winds down.

“It was about just getting that bad taste out of our mouth,” senior running back Matt Quetel said. “We were going into the week knowing that we needed a great game and we needed a big win.”

Phillipsburg’s domination of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball paved the way for the decisive victory. The Stateliners (4-1) ran for more than 300 yards and six touchdowns, while holding the Lions to 57 yards on the ground and just four first downs throughout the game.

“Guys were firing off the ball on both sides and getting a great push for (Quetel),” Phillipsburg coach Frank Duffy said. “It was great to see that movement all night and that’s what we preach to our guys, that the game is won in the trenches.”

Quetel scored the game’s first points on a 4-yard touchdown run before North Hunterdon went three-and-out. Phillipsburg doubled its lead six plays later when Matt Garatty lofted a pass to Jalil Terrell on a fade for a 22-yard touchdown.

On the final play of the first quarter, North Hunterdon (1-4) moved past midfield for the first time when Ryan Rochelle hit John Sauchelli over the middle for a 14-yard gain.

Rochelle threw over the middle on the next play but this time his pass went into the hands of Phillipsburg linebacker Jacob Hille. The senior took off down the home sideline and returned the interception to the North Hunterdon 13.

“We always say whoever wins the turnover battle is going to win the game,” Hille said. “We’ve been practicing (the Lion)'s route combos all week and I had a few interceptions on that same look. When I got the opportunity, I was ready for it. I sat on my coverage and I was able to make a play.”

Three plays after the pick, Garatty scored on a quarterback keeper from 4 yards out.

Phillipsburg seniors Declan Marron and Michael Wambold added a fumble recovery and interception, respectively, to cap off a big first half for the Stateliners seniors on defense.

“We got to get a bunch of seniors in tonight, which I’m so proud of,” Duffy said. “It was just a great night for all of our seniors. I’m just so grateful that we got to this point. To know that they got a senior night that they can be proud of and they remember for the rest of their lives, that makes me really proud.”

The Lions went three-and-out on their first possession of the second half and Rochelle’s punt was downed at midfield. Quetel then took a handoff up the middle, made a cut to the left and outran two North Hunterdon defenders down the home sideline into the end zone.

“He’s special. He’s a rare breed, that kid. He’s got great vision and great balance, and he works his tail off. He plays like he practices so it’s not a surprise to me,” Duffy said of Quetel’s explosiveness.

Mulik Warren sacked Rochelle on third down to force another three-and-out for the Lions. Two plays later, Quetel burst to pay dirt on a 53-yard touchdown.

Despite needing just 17 carries to rack up 165 yards on the ground, the senior was quick to give credit to the big men up front.

“Our line is great. Every single game our line always steps up and they meet the challenge that me and all the coaches give them,” Quetel said. “They do a lot for me. I respect and appreciate them so much because I wouldn’t be anywhere without them.”

For linemen like Jordan Kiley, watching Quetel break off touchdowns of 50-plus yards is a very rewarding sight.

“It’s awesome. Seeing our guys down the field and then watching their guys put their hands on their heads. We knew that they gave up right from the beginning when we got those big runs,” the senior said. “To come out here at Maloney, being able to play on our senior night -- it’s just awesome. We’ve been looking forward to it for four years.”

Friday’s matchup wrapped up play for the Stateliners in the Big Central Conference Division 4. Next week, Phillipsburg will play host to Bridgewater (2-1) 6 p.m. Nov. 7 to wrap up its regular-season schedule.

Desmond Boyle may be reached at

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