Phillipsburg 42, Irvington 7 -- NJSIAA North 2 Group 4 football championship
Amid the piles of unexpected November snow decorating Maloney Stadium like early Christmas presents, the Stateliner football entered history Saturday evening with a focused, powerful and near-complete performance to win the N2 G4 championship.
A delighted crowd invaded Maloney’s soggy turf to celebrate with the team afterwards as Phillipsburg (10-1) claimed its eighth sectional championship and improved its overall playoff record to 34-15.
“It feels phenomenal to win a championship in front of our crowds at our field,” said Phillipsburg senior quarterback and tri-captain Jack Stagaard, whose 183 yards passing set the Stateliner single-season mark at 2,027 yards. “And the job everybody did (Friday) was amazing -- with those people clearing our field and stadium we’d have probably had to play at a neutral field.”
That wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun -- and judging from the big smiles, happy hugs and rounds of picture-taking afterwards Phillipsburg certainly did have a lot of fun.
Indeed, the game was pretty much fun for the Stateliners after they responded a first-quarter score by Irvington (8-4) with 35 unanswered points and suffocating defense that held the Blue Knights to 8 first downs and 202 total yards.
Phillipsburg’s defense allowed 14 points in three playoff wins.
“There’s no secret formula for defense,” Stateliner head coach Frank Duffy said. “We fly to the ball and we keep things simple. We don’t scheme as much as we keep it as simple as possible so the kids can play a lot faster.”
Senior tailback Joe Green, sophomore tailback Matt Quetel and Stagaard all scored rushing touchdowns while junior h-back Bobby Coury and wide receiver Ray Poremba each hauled in TD passes from Stagaard.
Add in senior Nasir Ball’s 98-yard kickoff return for a score and the Stateliners ended the reign of grass at Maloney -- turf comes in 2019 -- in fine style.
The win moves Phillipsburg into a new level of NJSIAA football as the Stateliners will take on North 1 Group 4 champion Wayne Hills (10-2) in a “bowl game” the weekend of Nov. 30-Dec. 1 probably (but not surely) at Met Life Stadium.
But there is a game before that that the Stateliners have some interest in.
“Now it’s about Thanksgiving morning,” said Stagaard of the 112th meeting with archrival Easton. “We’ve all moved on to that game.”
Turning point: Ball’s TD return, which came after Irvington had tied the game in the first quarter. “I think it took the sting out of them,” said Ball, who caught the ball on the run and never slowed down. “I think it was very important to take the wind out of their sails.”
Top performer: Bobby Coury had 139 yards of total offense as he made remarkable catch after catch. His 8-yard one-handed TD grab may have been the team’s catch of the season. And he was his usual secure self on defense.
What it means: Phillipsburg will be part of history as a “bowl game” participant. They end Maloney’s unprecedented eight-game home schedule on a huge high and won their first sectional championship since 2014. And it means they enter Easton week on a real draft of momentum.
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.