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SPOTLIGHT
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Big plays lift Phillipsburg past Plainville

Published on -9/2/2012, 7:16 PM

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By NICK McQUEEN

nmcqueen@dailynews.net

PHILLIPSBURG -- Big play after big play, the Phillipsburg High School football team christened its new stadium properly in the 2012 opener Friday night.

Despite leaving its defense on the field most of the game, Phillipsburg struck quickly and often in handing defending MCL champion Plainville a 48-18 setback, all but erasing last year's 37-21 disappointing loss to start the season.

"We didn't doubt we were going to have a good game," Panther senior quarterback Sean Newlan said. "We just didn't think the score would be as offset as it was."

Newlan had touchdown strikes of 88 and 49 yards in the first half, and connected on three deep TD throws for the game. Phillipsburg (1-0 overall, 1-0 MCL) needed just 25 plays to put up 378 yards and seven scores on the night.

"We had a great week of practice," Newlan added. "Coach (J.B. Covington) said the first two days of practice (this week) were the best back-to-back practices he's ever had since he's been coach here."

Plainville (0-1, 0-1), coming off its 10-2 campaign and Class 2-1A sub-state runner-up finish a year ago, had its offense working well, but costly turnovers and having no answer for big plays from Newlan proved too difficult to overcome.

On its first possession following Phillipsburg's opening score, the Cardinals, on the backs of their running back trio, marched 79 yards only to fall short on fourth and goal from the five-yard line.

Two plays later, Newlan hit senior Tad Thompson for an 88-yard score to put the Panthers up 14-0.

"We played pretty well offensively," Covington said. "But, they put together some good long drives. They've got such good backs."

For the night, Plainville ran 78 plays compared to Phillipsburg's 25, but two interceptions by senior quarterback Hadley Gillum, two punts and the fourth-down stop kept the Cardinals from converting.

"We felt like after watching tape from last year, we didn't play very well down there," Covington said of the loss to open 2011. "They took it to us. It was important for this group, and honestly, we had a great summer. They were really focused on this game."

The Cardinals scored their first TD on a four-yard keeper by Gillum early in the second quarter, but Phillipsburg struck on its first play on the ensuing possession. Newlan hit senior Seth Derr from 49 yards out.

Later in the second quarter, Gillum's pass attempt on second down was picked off by Thompson at the 31, and returned down the Plainville sideline for a score, putting Phillipsburg up 35-6.

"Our line was shaky at times, but everyone has been working so hard," Newlan said of the Panthers' defense. "Everyone knows what the other is thinking. Nice when all the hard work in the offseason starts paying off."

Plainville's backs put on a display all night, combining for 360 yards on 72 rushes on the night. Senior Trevor Axelson scored on two short runs in the second half, capping long Cardinal drives, but an 84-yard TD pass from Newlan to Derr in the third quarter essentially put the game away.

"Our game plan was pretty much pound it up the middle and that will open up the deeps ones," Newlan said. "...Our first play was an option around the side. When we saw our guy could release on it, we hit them with an option pass and hit them deep."

The 84-yard strike in the third followed Gillum's second interception for the Cardinals, this won by Kohler. Senior fullback Harrison Gilliland finished with 172 yards on 26 carries for Plainville, while Axelson had 22 for 96 yards and the two scores. Senior Dalton Werner had 12 carries for 51 yards and caught two passes from Gillum for 45 yards down the middle.

"That's a good team we got tonight," Covington said. "Gilliland is a tough kid, and the small guys run tough, and have a lot of speed."

Newlan finished his night with 278 yards of offense, carrying eight times for 55 yards, while junior Michael Dusin had six carries for 56 yards. Junior Grant Wickham also had 30 yards, including a 13-yards TD run in the second quarter. Phillipsburg travels to Oberlin on Friday, while Plainville hosts Ellis.

Notes

... Phillipsburg kicker Justin Juenemann had one extra-point blocked and finished 6-for-7 on the night on PATs. The senior also had two touchbacks. ...Newlan finished 4-for-4 passing with three TDs. His only pass that didn't go for a score was a two-yard pass in the flat to Dusin. ... Plainville finished with 437 yards of total offense, averaging five yards per play, while Phillipsburg averaged 15 yards per play.

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