When the Phillipsburg football team switched to the wishbone during Friday night’s game against Thomas More Prep-Marian, that meant more carries for 225-pound senior fullback Zeb Lemon. Behind Lemon’s bruising runs up the middle, Phillipsburg won the Mid-Continent League game at Lewis Field Stadium, 21-7.
Lemon, in his first year with the program after moving to town from the Kansas City area, was starting at defensive tackle in the early part of the season, carrying the ball just two times for 8 yards. Friday night, Lemon had two carries for 3 yards in the first half, but after the switch in the Panther attack, he finished with 76 yards on 13 carries, with a host of Monarch defenders often needed to bring him down.
“We really weren’t thinking he was going to do too much,” TMP coach Jay Harris said. “He came out and hurt us, that’s for sure.”
Lemon’s 1-yard plunge into the end zone in the third quarter gave Phillipsburg a 14-0 lead, too much for TMP to overcome.
“He’s a big back, got a big bottom end on him,” Phillipsburg coach J.B. Covington said. “He’s tough to bring down, runs hard.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Phillipsburg got on the scoreboard with 3:05 left in the first half on a 21-yard pass from junior quarterback Ty Sides to junior split end Kagan Keeten on a third-and-11 play. It was Sides’ fifth TD toss on the season, all to Keeten.
The Monarchs thought they tied the game a minute later on a 44-yard scoring pass from freshman quarterback Kade Harris to junior Jace Lang, but the play was called back by a holding penalty.
“Penalties hurt us again this evening,” Coach Harris said. “That one hurt us. The boys definitely could have hung their heads there, but they didn’t.”
Covington said it was a big morale boost to keep the lead heading into the locker room.
“I think that was huge,” he said. “Momentum in football is a big thing.”
Down 14-0 early in the fourth quarter, the Monarchs thought they scored on a 3-yard run by Harris, but a block-in-the-back penalty brought the play back. TMP still managed to score on the drive when Harris rolled right on fourth down from the 12-yard line and threw the ball into the end zone. Sophomore Jace Wentling made a jumping catch and the Monarchs were back within a touchdown with 11:07 remaining in the game.
Phillipsburg put the game out of reach with 2:10 left when Sides scored on a QB keeper around left end.
Senior back Colby Dreiling, who had 82 yards rushing for the season, equaled that total on 20 carries for the Monarchs. Harris added another 75 yards on the ground. TMP opened the game driving 44 yards on 12 straight running plays to the Phillipsburg 26, but Panther senior defensive back Tyler Martin picked off a Harris pass on the next play. Martin added another interception in the second half.
“It was something we saw,” Coach Harris. “It just didn’t go our way.”
TMP (1-4) will play host to Norton (3-2) next Friday. Phillipsburg (2-3) will be home against Ellsworth (4-1).