Phillipsburg High School senior quarterback Jakhye McLean only attempted four passes against overmatched Capital Prep Harbor on Friday night at Maloney Stadium.
But McLean completed three of those attempts for 103 yards and a touchdown, and, in the process, the Stateliners might’ve found the passing game they’ve been searching for all season.
“I like what we did tonight, and Jakhye threw a great deep ball on the touchdown,” Phillipsburg coach Frank Duffy said after the 42-0 victory over the visitors from Bridgeport, Connecticut.
McLean connected with Buster Penrose for a 33-yard touchdown to boost Phillipsburg’s lead to 14-0 with 3:50 remaining in the first quarter.
McLean said Penrose, who was running a deep post pattern, wasn’t his first option on the play-action pass.
“They (Sharks) were heavy on the run, and it was a delayed pass,” said the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder. “They came up and covered the short pattern. Buster was my second read and I saw he was open.”
“Usually, the shorter route gets the pass, but they bit on the run,” said Penrose, who gained 17 yards on a speed sweep on the previous play. “I saw him (McLean) looking at me, I waved my arm and he threw a great ball.”
“Yeah, it was my best (pass) of the year,” McLean said, “but it was because our offensive line did a good job of protecting me. I think this game will really get it (passing attack) going.”
All 42 Phillipsburg points were scored in the first half against the Sharks (1-4), who were making their second trip to Warren County this season – the other was a 50-14 loss to Blair Academy on Sept. 18.
The second half was conducted under the mercy rule (running clock) and with the Stateliners’ starters and front-line players watching from the sideline. By then, Phillipsburg (4-3) had dominated in all three phases.
The Stateliners blocked or deflected the Sharks’ first three punts. The first deflection produced a punt that went for no yards and resulted in a two-play, 17-yard possession capped by Caleb Rivera’s 2-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
Phillipsburg’s return team met at Sharks punter Anthony Bulteryst’s foot at Capital Prep Harbor’s 5-yard line late in the first quarter. The blocked punt went straight up in the air, and came down into the awaiting hands of Xavier Moore, who caught it and powered his way across the goal line for a 2-yard score.
“I was just waiting for it to come down,” Moore said. “I don’t even know if we had the block on. I think No. 14 (Hakeem Ransdell) blocked it. Special teams are important, and we’ve blocked a couple of punts this season.”
The third blocked punt came on CPH’s next possession at its 18, and the Stateliners only needed three plays to register their fourth TD on Tristen Canzano’s 4-yard run.
“I was hoping to scoop and score on that one,” Moore said with a laugh.
Senior tailback Rai-Quan Dixon tallied Phillipsburg’s final two touchdowns on runs of 4 and 8 yards to conclude his night with 68 yards on eight carries.
McLean orchestrated the two-minute drill to perfection on the six-play, 80-yard drive that led to Dixon’s second score. The quarterback avoided a big loss by scrambling for a yard, completed an 18-yard pass to Josh Colon before leading Cameron Bohal perfectly on a fly pattern for a 56-yard gain to CPH’s 9. Dixon scored with 38 seconds before intermission.
Duffy appreciated his team playing to a high standard, especially with Westfield coming to Maloney Stadium next Friday. It was a message the players heard all week and took to heart.
“We have to play with the same intensity every week,” McLean said.
After losing its first two games, Phillipsburg has won four of its last five and is over .500 for the first time.
“No excuses when we lose, it’s all on us,” Moore said.
And on Friday night, every Stateliner contributed something to the victory.
Corky Blake can be reached at email@example.com.