SMITH CENTER — The Phillipsburg High School football team moved the ball well on its opening drive Friday night in a Mid-Continent League rivalry game with Class 1A No. 1 ranked Smith Center.
But the Redmen seemed to stop Phillipsburg’s formidable attack in its tracks.
Senior Treylan Gross and the Panthers, though, had other plans. Gross made a cut on a draw, and rumbled for 16 yards on a third-and-22. Just a few plays later, Gross found the end zone, and the Panthers took a 7-0 lead.
That was all the momentum Phillipsburg would need in an eventual 42-14 victory, sending the Panthers — ranked No. 3 in Class 2A — to 3-0.
“It was just some big momentum for us,” said Gross, who carried the ball nine times for 146 yards and scored three touchdowns. “We carried it on throughout the rest of the game.”
The third-down play was one of several key plays for Phillispburg, especially in the first half.
“We just have to make plays. We had some opportunities,” said Smith Center coach Darren Sasse, whose Redmen club hasn’t defeated Phillipsburg since 2011. “A lot of that is just attributed to their kids and how they’re running the ball, and making it difficult to tackle them.”
Phillipsburg made the plays when it needed to as well.
“We’re always excited for Smith Center,” Gross said. “That’s our rivalry team — always excited.”
The Panthers capitalized on a Smith Center fumble on a kickoff to take a 21-0 lead. Senior quarterback Trey Sides hit younger brother Ty Sides for a 9-yard strike before halftime. Before the third quarter was over, Trey Sides hit Austin Miller for a 25-yard score, and Gross picked up a teammate’s fumble and advanced it 20 yards to make it 35-0. It was the second time Phillipsburg recovered one of its own fumbles and advanced.
“I was a little bit lucky,” said Gross. “Just saw the ball and picked it up, nothing else to say.”
Sasse, though, said that’s just a result of being on the ball.
“That’s them making plays. When you’re aggressive and playing hard and fast, you’re going to get some of those things,” Sasse said. “You make your own luck with that kind of stuff.”
Smith Center got on the board for the first time in the fourth quarter. Junior quarterback Trenton Colby found junior Aaron Moss for a 9-yard strike.
Gross silenced any momentum, though, when he broke free for 65 yards for Phillipsburg’s final TD.
Smith Center’s Colby Benoit scored from 45 midway through the final quarter to set the final margin. Beginning with the 2015 season, the Redmen only have six losses in their last 36 games. Four of those have come at the hands of Phillipsburg. The Redmen will travel to Plainville (2-1) on Friday, while Phillipburg will travel to Norton (1-2).