Bohal’s blocks power Phillipsburg football to win over Bridgewater-Raritan
Phillipsburg junior Cameron Bohal isn’t just playing through injury. The defensive back and special teams ace, who suffered a torn ACL two weeks ago but has managed to stay on the field with the aid of a brace, has been making plays all over the field for the Stateliners. Bohal blocked a punt that Phillipsburg (6-0) returned for a touchdown and blocked an extra point in its 28-13 win over Bridgewater-Raritan in a Big Central Conference American Silver Division contest at Maloney Stadium Friday night. “I don’t think it changed much. I know I’m playing more safe, I’m trying to land on my right leg as much. I tore my ACL and I’ve just been playing on it ever since with this brace,” Bohal said. “It didn’t hurt as much, it didn’t swell or anything. My dad (Shannon) was there to persuade my mom (Jennifer) to let me keep playing. I wanted to play.” The junior looked to be at top speed when he crashed in from the right side of the Stateliners’ punt block and got a hand on Panthers senior Samuel Valeira’s kick. “They were just slow in general. We knew their wings, they didn’t really block anyone, so I knew I had a chance there. On punt, we switched my side in the second half. They punted and there was no one there so I was just able to get a free block,” Bohal said. “I think it was a big game changer. We got momentum again.” Bridgewater-Raritan (2-5) went three-and-out on the first drive of the second half and lined up to punt from its own 37. After Bohal bolted in and blocked the punt, sophomore Matthew Scerbo Jr. scooped up the ball and took it about 20 yards for a touchdown that gave Phillipsburg a 21-7 lead with 9:57 left in the third quarter. “We were game planning all week, we practice special teams. I’m going to say we have the best special teams in the state, we practice that like it’s our offense or defense,” senior Hunter Cleaver said. “We knew going into it, with our pressure and they weren’t the quickest punt team, we knew we were going to get one or two; it was just a matter of time before we got back there and made a play.” Even after the Panthers clawed back into the game at the end of the third quarter, Bohal helped the Stateliners maintain momentum. Bridgewater-Raritan drove 39 yards in six plays but, on fourth-and-goal-from the five, junior Joe Spirra passed to senior Antione Hinton who was stopped by junior Patrick Day two yards short of the goal line. As the Stateliners worked their way out from their own end zone, junior Caleb Rivera took a handoff on third down but fumbled and Hinton recovered and took it about 10 yards the other way for a TD. Bohal blocked the ensuing PAT to keep Phillipsburg’s lead at 21-13 with 26 seconds left in the third quarter. “He’s unbelievable at blocking kicks. He’s always had a knack, ever since last year. We try and put him in position anyway we can to block a kick,” Phillipsburg coach Frank Duffy said. “Cam is pretty special on that, he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen at that. Not only is he savvy and he has great get-off, but he lays out every single time.” The Stateliners burned more than six minutes off the clock on their next drive before turning the ball over on downs at the Panthers’ 21. Bridgewater-Raritan gained just one yard before Valeira punted the ball 20 yards to the Panthers’ 42 with 5:06 remaining. Phillipsburg turned to its ground game and ran the ball eight straight plays, the last of which was a 3-yard touchdown run by senior Xavier Moore that extended the to 28-13 lead with 1:09 left. “We didn’t have our greatest night offensively, but in critical moments we were able to put the ball in the end zone which is huge. Just doing it the Phillipsburg way,” Duffy said. The Stateliners trailed for just the second time this season when Bridgewater-Raritan marched 74 yards in just six plays on its first drive of the game. “Every team from here on out is going to bring their best effort, so we have to be prepared for that. That’s a tough football team and I think they’re only getting better. They’ve gotten better each week, Bridgewater. I knew they were going to give us a great effort but I’m just really proud of the way we stepped up,” Duffy said. The Panthers deviated from their option offense and found success running to the outside on that possession, which was capped off by a 27-yard touchdown run by senior Nick Catena off the right tackle. “They’re an option team so we game planned on that. Of course, not every team is going to do the same thing that we’ve practiced, they’re going to switch it up. We weren’t expecting them to do a bunch of reaches,” Cleaver said. “We saw what they were doing, we made adjustments and once we started getting it, we just got rolling and they couldn’t do anything after that.” Bridgewater-Raritan’s next two possessions ended without moving the chains once before Phillipsburg tied the game. One play after having a 31-yard touchdown reception called back for a penalty on a block down field, junior John Wargo broke free on a 21-yard touchdown run with 9:52 left in the second quarter. The Stateliners then dialed up the two-minute offense to take a lead into halftime. Phillipsburg took over at its own 29 with 2:08 left in the first half and sophomore quarterback Jett Genovese completed three straight passes of 11, 12 and 23 yards before finding plenty of space up the middle on a 25-yard touchdown. “I think we were struggling offensively all first half. We weren’t putting points on the board and I felt like we had to convert there,” Genovese said. “That’s what we practice every Thursday and it came through.” “Offensive line did a really good job on that. That’s one of the plays we hit last week on a third-and-long. We got the opportunity this week and we converted, really happy with that,” Genovese added on the touchdown. Genovese finished the game with 9 completions on 15 attempts for 127 yards. Wargo led the rushing attack with 55 yards on five carries. Facing constant pressure from the Stateliners’ defensive front, Spirra completed 6 of 14 passes for 67 yards. The Panthers gained 60 yards on offense in the second half. “We’re really just trying to relieve pressure from the corners. Just get the best looks we can, try and get in the backfield and make a play,” Cleaver said. “Just getting in the backfield is just the mentality, no one can block me. Having that mentality just going into it and just attack every time.” Cleaver and fellow-senior Connor Hille each had six tackles and one sack. Senior Liam Slack made seven tackles. Phillipsburg will look to stay unbeaten when it hosts Union (2-4) next week. Desmond Boyle may be reached at email@example.com.