The Biblical Joshua made his presence known at the Canaanite city of Jericho by knocking down its walls.
The Phillipsburg Joshua makes his presence known by knocking down ball carriers.
Joshua Burton, that is.
“When I have a great game, I can tell because I have made my presence known on the field,” said the Stateliner senior linebacker and (occasionally) fullback. “I can see if running backs hesitate to run hard, if wide receivers hesitate to catch balls, if fullbacks don’t want block linebackers, then I know my presence has been well known.”
Burton will seeking to make his presence well-known at Hillsborough Friday night (7) when the Stateliners travel to take on the Raiders in a Mid-State 38 Delaware Division game.
Both teams are 2-1 with similar-sized home losses to unbeaten Bridgewater-Raritan; Hillsborough fell 30-10 on Sept. 16 and Phillipsburg dropped a 30-7 result to the Panthers Friday. Burton and his teammates wanted to purge that memory quickly.
“That loss left a bitter taste in our mouths, and the only way to get of the taste is to gets wins, lots of wins, starting with Friday,” Burton said. “Practice today (Tuesday) was amazing. We want to get back to getting used to winning. We know that Bridgewater loss should never have happened at all.”
The Stateliners suffered major adversity in that Bridgewater loss for the first time this season, especially when they surrendered a defensive touchdown on a fumble return on the game’s third play.
“That play made a difference,” Burton said. “It was so unexpected, we didn’t react well to it. There are high and lows of football and the key is how you react to them.”
There likely to be more of both highs and lows for Phillipsburg this football season, and Burton said one of the seniors’ tasks to make sure the lows don’t get too low.
“We have to make sure the younger players don’t take too much of the weight on their shoulders when things go wrong,” Burton said. “We have to give them a pat on the back, make sure they know it wasn’t their fault and take the weight on us. We have to carry the weight for the team.”
Burton, who hopes to attend college at Florida A&M in Tallahassee, knows a little about getting help carrying some weight. He attends church regularly at the Greater Shiloh Church in Easton, is the son a pastor (mom) and bishop (dad) and carries his Christian faith with him proudly onto the football field.
“I step on the field and I feel God calling my name, and it’s time to do my job,” he said.
That job comes mostly on defense. “Linebacker’s my thing,” he said, and you get the idea that if he never took another snap at fullback the 5-foot-10, 230-pounder would not be too upset.
“I am the field general of the defense at linebacker, I have to be,” Burton said. ”I work on reading my keys and film and my knowledge of the game all the time and I can feel of huge difference between this year and last. But I can still play with a lot more intensity.”
Phillipsburg coach Frank Duffy said Burton has a come a long way
"Josh has really worked hard to improve himself," Duffy said. "He has grown as an individual and as a football player since his freshman year. He's worked hard to improve at linebacker. He was our defensive player of the week when we beat Hunterdon Central. As our SAM linebacker, his roles is to clog up holes, play downhill and play fast."
Even when moving fast, Burton’s usually easy to spot with his No. 1 jersey, but he’s also the guy with the dreadlocks out there.
“I have been putting my hair in dreadlocks since my freshman year,” Burton said. “I pride myself on looking good and playing good.”
And making his presence known on the football field.
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.