The Mendham football team got off to a bad start against Phillipsburg in the North 2, Group IV championship game at Rutgers on Sunday night.
Then, like a snowball rolling downhill, the Minutemen’s troubles grew and grew.
In the end, Mendham was completely smothered.
Phillipsburg thrived during a driving snowstorm and defeated Mendham, 39-0, for its sixth title.
“Obviously, we’re real disappointed,” Minutemen coach Bill Carpluk said. “We worked real hard to come here and win. We thought we had a shot coming in, but the kids did a great job just getting here.”
The Stateliners offensive line won the many little battles up front and runners Joe Maso (26 for 168, 2 TDs) and Anthony Guarino (10 for 147, 3 TDs) knew just what to do with the running room.
Both runners were a handful for Mendham in the first half, when Phillipsburg scored on all five of its possessions on the way to 33-0 halftime bulge. Phillipsburg outgained Mendham in the first half alone, 270-15.
The Stateliners then scored on their sixth straight possession early in the third quarter and the game was played with a running clock the rest of the way. Phillipsburg coach Ryan Ditze played his subs the rest of the game.
“We looked in the papers today, and a lot of teams were beaten up just like us,” Carpluk said. “But we could have played against an 0-8 team three weeks ago and ended our season (in a consolation game).”
Phillipsburg took the opening kickoff and went 67 yards, scoring on Guarino’s 50-yard sprint to the left side. The Minutemen had a shot to stop Phillipsburg during the drive but couldn’t.
Maso was jammed up for no gain at the Phillipsburg 41 on the game’s third play, but Ditze decided to go for it and Maso took a pitch to the left side for 8 yards and a first down.
After quarterback Tyler Troxell was nailed by Mendham’s Anthony Marconi on an incomplete pass, Guarino broke free and sped past Mendham for a touchdown.
It wouldn’t be the last time he’d visit the end zone.
After Mendham went three-and-out, Guarino concluded a 70-yard touchdown drive by running for an 11-yard score right through the middle of the Mendham defense.
Mendham was able to get a first down on its next possession, but Phillipsburg’s Kenyatta Meadows intercepted his first pass of two INTs on the day (and his team’s first of four) at midfield.
Four plays later, Guarino was at it again, going up the left side for a 29-yard run early in the second quarter. Mendham’s Ian Graham blocked the extra point, but the dye was cast, and Mendham was having trouble solving Phillipsburg’s running attack.
Later in the second quarter, Mendham was burned by the pass as Troxell hit Randy Custodio with a 19-yard touchdown pass with 2:29 left before the half.
But Phillipsburg still had time for more damage. On Mendham’s first play of its next possession, Guarino stepped in front of a Jack Horan pass for an interception at the Stateliners 35. Guarino then rushed for 13 yards and 15 more yards was tacked on because of a Mendham facemask.
Guarino added 22 more, Maso ran three times for 18 yards, the final one a 4-yard effort where he took a pitch and went into the end zone uncontested.
Early in the second half, Meadows had another INT at the Mendham 35 and the Stateliners scored five plays later with Maso sidestepping one defender at the line of scrimmage and spinning around another before going in from 13 yards out.
Mendham’s offense, meanwhile, couldn’t get anything going at all. Fullback Tim Byrne was banged up on the game’s first play when he gained 3 yards. Two plays later, on third-and-2, Carpluk said that he wanted to run Byrne but the runner was being tended to on the sideline.
So on the play, Mendham was hit for a 1-yard loss. It was that kind of night for the Minutemen.
“From there, we just couldn’t get anything going,” Carpluk said.
The snow didn’t help matters.
“It didn’t hurt them,” Carpluk said with a laugh, refusing to make any alibis. “What the weather did was prevent us from doing anything we wanted to do.”
P — Anthony Guarino 50 run (Ryan O’Dowd kick).
P — Guarino 11 run (O’Dowd kick).
P — Guarino 29 run (kick blocked).
P — Randy Custodio 19 pass from Tyler Troxell (run failed).
P — Joe Maso 4 run (O’Dowd kick).
P — Maso 13 run (kick failed).