SCOTCH PLAINS – Both coaches entered yesterday’s contest between Phillipsburg and Scotch Plains-Fanwood with different objectives, so each could derive some satisfaction from the outcome.
Phillipsburg’s Ryan Ditze could draw some relief as his team emerged unscathed with its sixth consecutive victory, 48-13, allowing it to enter the playoffs next week with a 7-1 record for the third year in a row.
“I thought it was great to come out and finish the season with a W,” Ditze said. “We came through this game healthy, that’s what counts. We’re really looking forward to the post-season.”
The Raiders’ Jon Stack obviously would have preferred that his team earn it first victory of the season, but he was genuinely encouraged by its continued competitiveness as well as the ongoing development of some of his team’s younger players.
“We’re looking for silver linings,” Stack said. “We’ve got kids who’ve been busting their butts this entire time, playing tough against good teams.”
Scotch Plains-Fanwood gifted a 7-0 start to the Stateliners on a fumbled exchange from the 5 that end Matt Yanes pounced on in the end zone midway through the first quarter.
The Raiders defense posted stops on Phillipsburg’s first two possessions, another positive sign.
“In two games that we watched, against Elizabeth and Hunterdon Central, P-Burg did not run a single play for a loss of yardage,” noted Stack, whose team registered four tackles for loss on those two drives alone. “These kids played a tremendous game today, I was very proud of the defense.”
JaQuan Jones delivered the Stateliners’ first offensive score on a 26-yard jaunt off right tackle for a 13-0 cushion with 47 seconds left in the quarter.
But the Raiders continued to battle and James Taylor made it a one-score difference with a 47-yard run down the left sideline early in the second quarter. It wasn’t a one-score game for long as Phillipsburg reached the end zone three times over the final 9:32 of the first half to break the game open.
Danny Fisher hooked up with Manny Romero on a deep corner route from 41 yards for the first score, Jones bulled his way over from the 1 for the second, and Yusef Shelton added the third on a 17-yard return of a short and low Raider punt, possibly the shortest punt return for a touchdown in the history of the sport.
“We set some goals for ourselves this week, we set goals every week, and I’m not sure if we hit them or not,” Ditze said. “Scotch Plains played us real hard but our kids made some great plays.”
Scotch Plains-Fanwood continued to battle through a scoreless third quarter but Jurmani Townes invoked the mercy rule with a 2-yard touchdown run in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
The Raiders weren’t done as sophomore quarterback Cooper Heisey tossed the first touchdown pass of his promising career on a broken play, scrambling to his right against a heavy rush and connecting with George Leichtling down the right sideline for a 73-yard strike.
Phillipsburg sophomore Sean Morro capped the scoring with a 59-yard burst up the middle with a four and half minutes remaining, enabling him to be the game’s leading rusher with 67 yards on two carries.