Nerves clearly didn’t affect the Phillipsburg football team as it began its postseason campaign.
Turning point: The Minutemen moved five yards in the wrong direction on the first drive of the game and botched their punt attempt to set Phillipsburg up at the Elizabeth 25. Three plays and 80 seconds later, the Stateliners opened the scoring on a 10-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Jett Genovese to fellow-sophomore Matt Scerbo Jr.
Five plays into Elizabeth’s next drive, senior Xavier Moore deflected a pass that junior Kevin Burgess intercepted and returned to the Minutemen 32. Five plays later, Moore was in the end zone on a two-yard carry that doubled P’burg’s lead to 14-0 with 5:17 left in the first quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter, junior Caleb Rivera broke free on a 48-yard touchdown run down the away sideline. Rivera then ended Elizabeth’s next two drives with a pair of fumble recoveries.
One play after the second of those fumble recoveries, Genovese connected with junior Kevin Burgess on a jump ball for a 30-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left in the second quarter.
After Stateliners senior Xavier Arrington-Mitchell recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Genovese tossed his third TD of the night on a 20-yard pass to senior Isaiah Jackson in the back of the end zone. That touchdown extended P’burg’s lead to 35-0 on the final play of the first half and ensured the second half would be played with a running clock due to the mercy rule.
Top performers: Genovese completed 8 of 11 passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns. Scerbo Jr. hauled in four catches for 42 yards and Jackson made three receptions for 56 yards.
Moore’s final carry of the game was a 46-yard touchdown run that put the Stateliners up 42-0 on the second play of the second half. The senior broke the 100-yard mark for the third time this season, finishing with 104 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.
Rivera added 78 yards on the ground on nine carries.
In the second half, senior Jayson Garcia and junior Omar Dominguez took over the running duties. Dominguez rushed five times for 55 yards while Garcia rushed for 29 yards and a 14-yard touchdown on five carries.
Junior Luke Brogan went six-for-six on PAT’s before junior Colin Huey converted the Stateliners’ final PAT.
What it means: Phillipsburg (9-0) advances to the North 2 Group 5 semifinals where it will meet the winner of the quarterfinal between fourth-seeded Paterson Eastside and fifth-seeded Piscataway.
Elizabeth ends its season with a 2-7 record.
Desmond Boyle may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.