Last year was a rare losing season for the Phillipsburg High School football team. Kendall Fiscus, in his first year as head coach, hopes to return the Panthers to their winning ways.


"I expect us to go out and compete," said Fiscus, who was an assistant at Phillipsburg since 2014. "The kids have a sour taste in their mouth from last year."


J.B. Covington retired after going 3-6 in 2019, his only losing season in 17 years as Phillipsburg’s head coach. He went 136-45 and won state titles in 2018 and 2015.


Phillipsburg went to a spread offense with a zone running scheme last year. Fiscus has the Panthers back to running the flexbone this fall, emphasizing the ground game and mixing in the pass.


"I think the kids are more comfortable with it," Fiscus said. "They like the downhill approach with the run game."


Phillipsburg returns senior fullback Clint Gower, who got hurt last year, to lead the running game. The Panthers also have back senior Ty Sides, a two-year starter at quarterback, and senior wide receiver Kagan Keeten.


"I want to make sure he gets featured," Fiscus said of Keeten. "He’s one of our main threats in the pass game."


Fiscus also is comfortable having an experienced quarterback this fall in Sides.


"He knows the offense, makes good decisions," Fiscus said.


Brock Buresh, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior, anchors the line, playing center on offense and both defensive end and defensive tackle on the other side of the ball.


Fiscus said the program’s tradition of success is important.


"The kids and myself see all the work that goes into it," Fiscus said. "It’s not just showing up on Fridays."


The Panthers start the season Friday at home against Plainville, another successful Mid-Continent League program.


"It’s a tough opener," Fiscus said. "You’re not going to get a night off in the league."