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Phillipsburg’s Quetel to be most-watched man on football field

When Phillipsburg steps on the football field for-real for the first time Oct. 2 at Hunterdon Central’s Stewart Field, there will be a lot of eyes on Matt Quetel.

Red Devils head coach Casey Ransone and his defensive staff will certainly keep track of the Stateliners senior running back, given that Quetel ran for 1,302 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior.

P’burg fans -- however many are allowed in, of course -- will be watching the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Quetel with lip-smacking anticipation for what he might do as a senior, especially with him starting at outside linebacker on defense. Not many fan bases celebrate big hits as much as P’burg’s.

The game’s film will be snapped up by the Division II and III coaches recruiting Quetel, who averaged 5.9 yards a carry in 2019 and also caught 13 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Ridge.

But most of all, perhaps, the eyes of his Stateliners teammates may be on Quetel the most.

That’s because Quetel, along with classmates Matt Barna, Matt Garraty and Jacob Hille, will be leading Phillipsburg on the field as a captain, one of the Stateliners the entire team will be taking its cues from all season.

“It’s a big honor to be a captain,” Quetel said. “It’s a big leadership role, one that me and the other three guys are eager to take on. It’s looking good.”

What Quetel may not be is the screamer, the shouter, the loud one stirring up the huddle or the sideline.

And that’s fine.

“I’m not really that vocal,” he said. “I see myself as being a leader on the field.”

Right now, there’s a lot of leading to do in this oddball of a pandemic season. Normally, the Stateliners would have a game or two chalked up.

This season, fall practices started Friday. There will be an intersquad scrimmage Sept. 19 and game scrimmage with Delbarton on Sept. 24. Then, a six-game regular season looms in the new Big Central Division 4, before a couple of weeks of games to be arranged that are not, we are told, “playoff games,” and before Easton -- everybody hopes, at least -- on Thanksgiving.

“It’s pretty strange,” said Quetel in perhaps the understatement of the week. “We didn’t have our regular scrimmages, our summer, we couldn’t go to Bloomsburg for our team camp. We had some weight room sessions, some separate practices, I think we handled things pretty well with everything going on. But now we’re taking everything head-on and hoping to go forward.”

Quetel said the Stateliners know the best way to do so.

“We have to win every single day,” he said. “We have to do everything we are supposed to do on and off the field, and we have to be consistent, so we do that every single day. That’s how we win every single day.”

As good as Quetel was last season, he wants to get better.

“I want to be even more aggressive this season, and I want to get faster,” he said. “I am still working on my confidence. It’s sky-high but still could be better. I want to be aggressive in everything I do, in every single rep I take.”

Getting faster can be tricky. It’s not as if Quetel can strap rockets to his cleats. But he can do the next best thing.

“I think working with (Stateliners strength coach) Craig Merrick is big,” Quetel said. “I swear he knows everything about getting faster. I am running every single sprint program he gives me. That’s really enhanced my speed, and I feel a lot faster than last season. Coach Merrick does a great job, and he makes us 100 percent better.”

Quetel will play a bigger role on defense this season -- kind of going back to his gridiron roots.

“I started playing football in fifth grade as a nose tackle,” he said. “Then I switched to running back in sixth grade, but I think I have always played with the aggression of a lineman. It’s always a battle down there.”

Quetel has, however, developed a new appreciation for doing the tackling instead of (occasionally) being tackled.

“I have never really liked defense until now,” he said. “I am getting the reps I need to, and I am understanding that side of the ball more. You get to be more free on defense, get to dig in and smack everybody in the mouth as hard as you want.”

That sure sounds like a Phillipsburg football captain -- one who’ll have lots of eyes on him all season.

Brad Wilson may be reached at

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