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Beyond 100 Years

In 2005, the 101st year of Phillipsburg football, expectations ran high for a successful campaign with a good nucleus of players returning from the previous season's 10-2 team.  To the faithful's delight, the Liners did not disappoint, as they began their second century on the gridiron with a bang. Bob Stem returned to the helm after a long distinguished career at Bethlehem Catholic, Pa., and with an abundance of talent on hand, guided P'burg to its greatest season in history with a 12-0 mark, including a 15-6 revenge victory over Piscataway for the sectional title. The Stateliners also won their 3rd straight Skyland Conference crown. Blessed with an explosive offense, stingy defense, speed, experience, and good senior leadership, this Phillipsburg team, which finished #3 in the final Star Ledger rankings, will go down in history as one of the best the school has ever produced.

The 2006 season was a near replica of 2004. The Stateliners were victorious in their first 10 games, and entered the annual Thanksgiving Day showdown with Easton @ 10-0 with a 22-game winning streak on the line. The unbeaten season and winning streak came to an end in a 21-7 loss to the Rovers, followed by a heartbreaking 14-9 loss to Elizabeth in the sectional championship game. The season was not without its highlights, however. P'burg finished at #10 in the Star Ledger final rankings. They also won their 4th consecutive Skyland Conference divisional title while running their winning streak in conference play to 29 games. Individually, quarterback Justin Viscomi became the school's all-time leader with 3,712 career passing yards and 31 TD passes. In addition, running back Art Wright broke the school record for touchdowns in a season with 26 while scoring a school record 158 points on the year, which pushed him into the #2 spot on the all-time scoring list. Five Stateliners - Viscomi, Wright, wr/db Blair Decker, fb/lb Brian Norrell, and 2-way tackle Ken Pickell received all-state mention, with Pickell being named 2nd team all-state by both the Star Ledger and Associated Press.

The 2007 season was a disappointing one, as the Stateliners completed a lackluster 5-5 season with a first round loss in state playoff action. P'burg did chalk up its state-leading 600th win in school history, however, with a 21-7 win over Hillsborough.  But the Liners would rebound with a vengeance in 2008. Spearheaded by the outstanding play of sophmore QB Justin Scuorzo, senior 3rd team all-state RB Eric Deery, and an opportunistic defense that posted 4 shutouts and allowed more than 14 points only twice in 12 games, P'burg returned to prominence on the gridiron with an outstanding 10-2 season, finishing as the Star Ledger's #13 ranked team in the state. The season was capped off by claiming another championship, this time the North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 title with a 20-6 win over old rival Rahway. Deery ran for 1,693 yards, the 2nd highest total in P'burg history, and scored 15 TDs, while Scuorzo passed for 1,435 yards in his 1st year as starter. P'burg's undersized defense picked off 21 passes to key the Liners' resurgence. The championship was P'burg's 3rd this decade in 5 tries, and 9th in school history.

Phillipsburg returned another nice core of players in 2009, but questions surrounded the offensive line, which was completely lost to graduation. Coach Bob Stem and his staff were able to put together another efficient unit in the trenches, however, and it paid dividends for the Stateliners. Junior QB Justin Scuorzo once again passed for 1,477 yards, junior RB Dana Lee rushed for 1,109 yards, and the Liners put together another 10-2 season, culminated by another successful run through the state playoffs, this time in Section 2 Group 4, as P'burg routed Ridge 34-7 to claim back-to-back sectional titles for the first time in school history. The sectional title and final ranking at #12 in the Star Ledger capped off the winningest decade in Phillipsburg history, as the Liners chalked up their 88th win, vaulting head coach Bob Stem to within 4 wins of surpassing legendary coach Mike Maloney as the school's winningest coach of all time.

The Stateliners entered the 2010 season with hopes for a 3rd consecutive sectional title with a large nucleus of lettermen returning. The season would prove to be a roller coaster ride of sorts, but would conclude with the program's most satisfying win in years. The Liners torched their first five opponents by a combined 226-41, but ran into a familiar roadblock in mid-season, when 3 lost fumbles inside their own 30 and a last-minute goal line stand by Hunterdon Central would lead to a 28-25 loss to the Red Devils. The Liners rebounded to post two more wins entering the post-season. But P'burg's 42-27 first-round sectional playoff win over Franklin proved to be costly, as 3-year starting QB Justin Scuorzo suffered a concussion. With Scuorzo sidelined with the injury, the Stateliners suffered a heartbreaking last-second 28-21 loss to unbeaten Piscataway, ending their dreams of a 3rd consecutive sectional crown. P'burg entered the Thanksgiving Day clash with once-beaten Easton, who had claimed four consecutive wins over the Liners, determined to claim redemption. With a defensive effort that will go down as one of the finest in series history, P'burg shut down a potent Rover attack to claim a hard-fought 3-0 OT win when senior kicker Anthony Castro booted his school-record 11th FG, sending the Stateliner bench into a frenzy. The 9-2 season proved to be historic in a lot of ways. The Stateliners finished as the 2nd highest scoring team in P'burg history, and set school records for average yards gained per game and per play.  Individually, besides Castro's school record FG, Scuorzo became the school's all-time career leader in passing yardage and TD passes, surpassing former Liner star Justin Viscomi. Two-way star Gerald VanDeCruz was named 1st team all-state by the Star Ledger, becoming the 60th Liner to be honored. And the Liners' 9 wins propelled head coach Bob Stem past legendary coach Mike Maloney, making Stem the winningest coach in P'burg history with 112 wins. Just one week after the Thanksgiving Day victory, Stem announced his retirement, bringing his highly successful tenure to a fitting conclusion.

The 2011 season marked the start of a new era, as long-time assistant coach Ryan Ditze succeeded Bob Stem as P'burg head coach. The Stateliners enjoyed a 7-3 season, but once again stumbled versus Hunterdon Central, losing to the Red Devils for the fifth consecutive time, and lost to rival Easton. P'burg also failed to qualify for the sectional playoffs for the first time since 1999.

The 2012 season saw the program take a few steps backward as P'burg suffered a rare losing season, finishing 4-6 and once again failing to qualify for playoffs.

But in 2013, Ditze and the Stateliners got the program back on track. P'burg put together a 10-2 season, losing only to Immaculata 31-28 in 2 OT and to Easton 16-7. The Liners capped off the year by storming through the North 2 Group 4 sectional playoffs, beating Scotch Plains-Fanwood 40-20 and JFK (Iselin) 42-14 before hammering Mendham 39-0 to capture the school's 6th sectional championship. P'burg got outstanding performances from a trio of juniors. RB Joe Maso rushed for 1,565 yards, the 4th highest single season total in P'burg history, and scored 19 TDs, which earned him Star Ledger 1st-team Group 4 honors. He was joined on the Group 4 first team by DB Anthony Guarino, an athletic, versatile performer who excels on offense, defense, and on special teams. In addition, LB Taji Lowe, the team's leading tackler with 79 stops, received 2nd-team Group 4 all-state honors. These outstanding players give the Stateliners a talented core to build their team around for the upcoming 2014 season.

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