For a playoff tune-up, Phillipsburg’s 28-0 win Friday night at East Brunswick certainly fit the bill.
The Stateliners (8-0), who assured themselves the No. 1 seed in the upcoming North Group 5 playoffs (and thus home field advantage through the playoffs) with win, did a lot of things that winning postseason teams do.
First, Phillipsburg pitched a shutout of the winless Bears (0-8).
“We had a nice goal-line stand in the second quarter; they had the ball on the inch line,” Stateliner head coach Frank Duffy said. “We did a great job on the goal line stand, and we were really on fourth down all game; they went for it several times.”
Second, the Stateliners did not turn the ball over (though they did have one fumble) while junior Patrick Day and senior Isaiah Jackson recorded interceptions, for a 2-0 turnover ratio. Day returned his pick 18 yards for a touchdown.
Third, Phillipsburg cleaned its play up. In last week’s win over Union, the Stateliners were penalized 10 times for 95 yards. Against East Brunswick, P’burg drew one flag for 10 yards.
It is true the Stateliners were not dominant on offense, with a surprisingly low rushing total of 91 yards, although junior tailback Caleb Rivera had three touchdowns – of 1, 2, and 15 yards – on 10 carries and 55 yards overall.
“We had some different guys in the backfield this game, because we didn’t have John Wargo and Xavier Moore,” Duffy said. “We saw some guys we haven’t played much like senior Jayson Garcia and junior Omar Dominguez, and Caleb eventually got us rolling.”
Phillipsburg sophomore quarterback Jett Genovese threw for 129 yards, 90 of those on three passes to senior Connor Hille.
“We did miss some long passes,” Duffy said. “Overall Jett did a fine job, but we took some shots down the field that we couldn’t complete.”
Defensively, Duffy was pleased with the shutout but noted “we need to do a better job containing these shifty quarterbacks when they scramble.”
In a game against an overmatched foe, Duffy was able to learn about some different players.
“I think we found out about some guys who did not play much before, like (senior) Diego Santana, who did a great job on the defensive line with John (Wargo) out,” Duffy said. “Omar and Jayson and guys like that we haven’t seen much – it’s good to know we have that depth.”
This is the first year since 2017 that Phillipsburg went undefeated in the non-Thanksgiving portion of the regular season. The Stateliners will find out their playoff foe later on Saturday or Sunday.
“The kids feel good, but the great thing about this group is they know they have a lot of work to do,” Duffy said. “I am proud of them, and I know they will be ready to work again on Sunday.”
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.