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Energy, excitement follow P’burg’s Wambold around football field


Mike Wambold takes a secret weapon with him to his safety spot for Phillipsburg football. “I always used to play quarterback,” said the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Stateliner senior. “I have been using my speed to my advantage when I make reads, and having been a quarterback I know how it works. I can follow the quarterback and watch his eyes more accurately.” Wambold turned that edge into an interception in last week’s 39-14 season-opening defeat of Hunterdon Central. “When I watched the film, I could see the (Hunterdon Central) stared at the receiver,” Wambold said. “I was watching his eyes, and once I read them I started to weave that way and the ball came right to me. Turnovers are such a momentum-changer.” Wambold knows all about those, too, as it was his 17-yard return of a Red Devil punt blocked by Stephen Gural for a touchdown that helped break open a close game in the third quarter. “Mike is a playmaker and no question got the momentum going our way with his interception and scoop/score on the punt block,” P’burg head coach Frank Duffy said. Few teams put in as much as effort on special teams as the Stateliners do. "We work on that play every day, we call it “country and city”,'" Wambold said. “Country means diving on the ball. City means trying to pick it up and run with it. The coaches tell us on any blocked punt behind the line of scrimmage, we always should try and scoop and score, because it’s going to be our ball either way.” Given Wambold’s habit of being on the ball in key spots, there’s no doubt he and his No. 1 jersey will be a prime focus for Montgomery’s coaching staff when Phillipsburg visits the Cougars (0-1) in a Big Central Conference Division 4 game Friday night (7). “We get to pick our numbers, and I have always worn No. 1, when I played at Pohatcong, Lopatcong and Riegel Ridge,” Wambold said. “I have been playing football since fifth grade. I always played football in my backyard, and in fifth grade was when all my friends got me to come out for football.” Whoever wears No. 1 on the football field sometimes attracts just a little more attention than his teammates, and Wambold surely deserved any extra eyeballs he caught Friday night. He was selected as the Special Teams player of the game by the Stateliner coaching staff.' As key as Wambold is on special teams, he’s even more critical to the Phillipsburg defense. “Mike handles all the coverage checks for us on defense and is very reliable as the deep safety,” Duffy said.  He covers a lot of ground in the middle but also is willing to come down hill and hit." Wambold said it’s like being a football conductor., “I have to make sure everyone gets the right calls and everyone is in the right positions,” Wambold. “I think that went pretty well against Hunterdon Central.” Well, most of the time, and Wambold owns up to when it didn’t."On the first play I made the wrong read, and got my back foot," he said. Wambold said the Stateliners could use a more consistent mental approach for Montgomery. “We were excited to get on the field and play; we never knew if we’d be on the field at all,” he said. “But the coaches want us to have the same energy and intensity we had in the second half against Hunterdon Central for every single quarter of every game -- that’s what is expected from us. It was a little bit tough not having our fans, but we know we have to create our own energy now, and that is what we did in the second half.” Just follow Phillipsburg’s No. 1 around the field and watch the energy flow in his wake. Brad Wilson may be reached at bwilson@lehighvalleylive.com.

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