Phillipsburg 21, Cranford 0 -- NJSIAA North 2 Group 4 football semifinal
It took a while, but once the Stateliners got going, they moved into the North 2 Group 4 sectional final with a shutout win Saturday night.
Phillipsburg, ranked No. 3 in the region by lehighvalleylive, led just 7-0 at the half but dominated physically in the second half to end Cranford’s season at 6-4 and win its sixth straight game and stand 9-1 on the season.
The Stateliners, the No. 1 seed in the section, will host No. 3 seed Irvington (8-3) in the sectional Friday night at 7.
The Cougars dominated most of the first half -- at one point they had run 34 of 36 plays -- but Phillipsburg had the sole score on an 86-yard TD pass from Jack Stagaard to Sterling Walker-Sutton, who later hauled in a 19-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter.
After a back-and-forth third quarter, P’burg senior tailback Joe Green made it 14-0 on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 10-yard run that he had set up with several hard-charging runs.
Stagaard's two TD passes gave him 19 on the season which set the Stateliner single-season record.
Turning point: Cranford had a decent drive going late in the third quarter until Stateliner senior Nasir Ball sliced in front of Cougar junior wide receiver Cole Blazek and intercepted senior quarterback Connor Katz at the Stateliner 22 with 2:23 left in the third quarter. The Stateliners then went 77 yards for the clinching score on Green’s 10-yard run.
Top performers: This was unquestionably one of Phillipsburg’s weaker efforts of the season, but three Stateliners stood out: senior defensive lineman Jeff Vitale was bruisingly physical; Green came alive late in the game with some bruising runs; and Walker-Sutton made the key big plays; he gets open in ways not every receiver knows how to do.
What it means: With the change in the NJSIAA postseason, Phillipsburg will host its first-ever sectional final against No. 2 seed Irvington on Friday (barring another monsoon). Phillipsburg will have to improve substantially against Irvington, who took P’burg to the limit in last year’s sectional semifinal.
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.