Hunterdon Central’s football dominance of Phillipsburg is over. The Stateliners ended their six–game losing streak to the Red Devils with a 14-10 victory Friday night that also gave them the Mid-State 38 Delaware Division title.
Junior running back Robert Maso was the powerful force that the Red Devils couldn’t stop, helping the Stateliners raise their record to 6-0. Hunterdon Central, with major challenges ahead against Immaculata and Ridge, is 5-1.
“It was a real physical game,” said Hunterdon Central coach Matt Perotti. “It was a great defensive football game, but give Phillipsburg credit.”
The Liners had a 93-67 edge in total yards in the first half.
Phillipsburg sealed the victory with a 14-yard run by Maso for its 10th first down of the second half with less than a minute to play. It was Maso, Maso, and more Maso on the ground, but it was also a forceful Phillipsburg defensive line that limited the damage Central has brought every week.
Central also hurt itself – two interceptions — one that just about sealed the loss — and a penalty that wiped out a first-half touchdown by Jason Cabinda. Senior Stephen Barr came in to at least give the Red Devils three points with a 28-yard field goal, their first points of the game. Phillipsburg took a 7-0 lead on a short Maso run. Maso didn’t play in last week’s 16-7 win at Bridgewater-Raritan with coach Ryan Ditze having an eye on the Central game.
“He’s been doing it every week,” Ditze said.
Central took a 10-7 lead when senior Ryan Dunleavy, who had an outstanding all-around game, returned the second half kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. But an 87-yard Phillipsburg drive — spurred by a a 33-yard completion from Tyler Troxell to Maso ended with Maso’s four-yard run on the second play of the fourth quarter. The play came after the Red Devils were called for their third hands to the face penalty of the night.
“We have to walk through the pain because we have a very big challenge next week, so we’ll have to regroup” said Perotti at midfield of Maloney Stadium.
Despite playing its second complete game without its outstanding senior quarterback Mike Knight (out for the year with a broken leg), it looked like the Red Devils might still pull it out.
“It’s not about surviving, but scoring more points,” Perotti said. “One game doesn’t make a season, but every game can feel like a season.”.
A flea-flicker that resulted in a 33-yard run by Max Miller had the Red Devils in postion set with a first and 10 at the Liners’ 22 late in the fourth quarter down 14-10. The Red Devils were stopped on their first two plays, and on the third sophomore quarterback James Mania — in for junior Bobby Cole — dropped back and threw a pass toward the end zone. The ball was tipped by Anthony Guarino and picked off by Kenyatta Meadows.
“We thought we might have something there,” said Perotti.
P — Maso 3 run (O’Dowd kick)
HC — Barr 28 FG
HC — Dunleavy 85 kickoff return (Barr kick)
P — Maso 4 run (O’Dowd kick)