The Phillipsburg football team’s motto for the past couple of seasons, DIG, is all about being a resilient unit.
The Stateliner’s resolve was on full display on Friday night as their defense came up with two red zone stops in the first half of a 28-6 victory against Montgomery at Montgomery High School.
“That’s the motto of our team. Just being resilient and getting back up. Bend but don’t break,” Phillipsburg senior Jalil Terrel said. “We’re just P’burg kids. We’re tough, we don’t fold under pressure. We keep fighting until the end.”
Six plays after getting beat by Montgomery receiver Dylan McFadden for a 48-yard catch on third-and-long, Terrel bounced back and made the biggest play of the game.
Five yards from the end zone, Montgomery quarterback Alex Benitez threw a low pass that Terrel picked off and took 97 yards the other way for a touchdown to put the Stateliners up 14-0 halfway through the second quarter.
“Before I gave up a really big play, so I knew they were coming back to me. He ran a backside slant and I jumped it and picked it -- took it to the house,” Terrel said. “I’ve been working for the last 10, 11 months to get back on the field and make that play tonight. It was big.”
After both teams traded punts, the Cougars found themselves five yards from the end zone once again thanks to a big run from Weber Karsay.
With 15 seconds left in the half Montgomery used their final timeout. Benitez then tried to field a low snap on the next play but had to dive on the ball with the Phillipsburg pass rush swarming in. The clock ran out before the Cougars could get another snap off.
“I’m proud of them. You have to enjoy 2-0. We didn’t know if we were going to have a season so you can’t not sit back and enjoy this thing. We just have a lot of mistakes to clean up, too many explosive plays that (Montgomery) had offensively,” Phillipsburg coach Frank Duffy said.
Montgomery’s offense posed a unique challenge after moving Benitez from running back to quarterback due to an injury to starter JJ Malek in a loss to Hillsborough last week.
That added dynamic to the rushing game kept the Stateliners off balance before some halftime adjustments by their defensive line helped limit the Cougars dual threat quarterback.
“You just have to read the guards to be honest. If the guards lean back a little bit, you have to watch their stance and get out fast,” Phillipsburg junior Mulik Warren said. “We just moved around more up front… Get to the quarterback in the back field. That’s my mentality the whole game.”
After Montgomery dominated the time of possession in the first half, Phillipsburg flipped the script in the second half behind the strong running of senior Matt Quetel.
“I would say we’re a second half team... That’s what we do -- we come out strong in the second half because we know we have to get the win,” Warren said.
Quetel rushed for 75 of his 108 yards in the second half and scored on a three-yard carry to extend Phillipsburg’s lead to 20-0 six minutes into the third quarter. The senior was spelled by junior Rai’Quan Dixon and sophomore Xavier Moore who combined for 68 yards on 14 carries.
“Both those guys give us a different element and it’s great to have multiple guys in the backfield, especially with Matt playing a lot of defense for us now,” Duffy said.
Quarterback Matt Garatty also benefitted from the Stateliners success on the ground, as the senior’s touchdown passes to Terrel and Tim Pherson both came on play action.
Phillipsburg will get to play its home opener next week against Hillsborough, with the game likely to be played Saturday at 7 after the Raiders (1-0) week 2 game was delayed.
Desmond Boyle may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.