Phillipsburg’s historic football program has produced many outstanding teams, enabling the school to achieve a state-leading 636 victories. The Stateliners have had 4 perfect seasons, 5 teams which were unbeaten but tied, and have had 20 others that were beaten only once. Those outstanding teams and countless others have propelled the long-time state power to 10 state championships and 23 conference crowns.
The following teams represent the best the school has ever produced.
(#1) 1949 (9-0) and 2005 (12-0)
It is difficult to distinguish between two teams who competed in different eras with such contrasting styles of play, so these two powerhouses share top billing. One thing is certain, however: these two teams were clearly the best in their respective eras.
1949 (9-0) The 1949 team has long been considered the greatest team in P’burg history. Coach Frank Klein’s powerhouse blitzed its nine opponents by a combined tally of 235-81. Loaded with talented players, the ’49 team was led by all-state tackle Ron Exley and speedy all-state RB Russ Dilts, an electrifying gamebreaker who later played at Florida. Facing a brutal schedule, the garnet and grey beat Pa. powerhouses Allentown and Bethlehem, stopped Morristown’s 19-game winning streak (the Colonials had won 38 of 39), and snapped South Jersey power Collingswood’s 17-game winning streak. In the highlight of the season, P’burg also upended prep school juggernaut McKinley Tech of Washington, D.C. 49-35 in what has been called the greatest game ever played at Maloney Stadium. They capped off their stellar season by dominating a 7-1 Easton team 33-7, and were subsequently declared New Jersey state champion. During a decade in which P’burg simply reloaded year after year, this team was clearly the best of the bunch.
Phillipsburg High School
1949 New Jersey State Champions
2005 (12-0) The 2005 Stateliners went 12-0 for the first time in school history, winning their 3rd straight Skyland Conference title as well as the North Jersey Section 2 Group 4 title to cap off what has become known as “the perfect season”. In the process, the Liners finished with a #3 ranking in the state in the Star Ledger. Explosive offensively, they outscored the opposition 422-163, setting more than 20 school records. Ironically, it was the first perfect season since 1949. This P’burg team was blessed with outstanding skill position players, excellent line play spearheaded by all-state guard Eric Agnew, good speed, size, and experience. Coach Bob Stem’s Liners could play some nasty defense as well, as they shut down three state playoff opponents and Easton in their last four games, outscoring them by a 138-40 count, to put the finishing touches on a season for the ages. Not since 1949 have the Stateliners been so talented.
(#2) 1933 (9-1) Coach Art Pursel’s powerhouse recorded an incredible 9 shutouts in 10 games, losing only to defending state prep school champion St. Benedict’s Prep 18-0. It was later learned the Newark school had used an ineligible player, and thus forfeited the victory. Led by all-state center Harold Bellis, who would later coach two unbeaten teams and win one state title at P’burg, the 1933 team knocked off defending state champion Asbury Park, unbeatens Allentown (Pa.) and Plainfield, and once-beaten Bethlehem (Pa.) while outscoring the opposition 159-18. This team’s deep roster also included future all-state players Bill Van Syckle, Paul Opdyke, and Sammy Moyer. The ’33 team won its
last 8 games by shutout, starting P’burg off on a 29-game unbeaten streak which did not come to an until the 2nd game of the 1936 season.
(#3) 1964 (8-0-1) The 1964 Stateliners are very reminiscent of the 1960 team, but were even more dominant. This squad posted 6 shutouts in 9 games, outscoring the opposition 224-46. The 1964 team featured an experienced QB in 3-year starter Gregg Seifert, a solid running game spearheaded by RB Steve Jerolaman and speedy scatbacks Jack Unangst and Dick Garrity, and a solid FB in Sonny Wilson. But the key to this Liner team was its excellent line play, led by all-state center/linebacker George Hummer, one of the most dominant players to ever wear the garnet and grey, who later starred at Arizona State. A 0-0 tie with New Jersey power New Brunswick, led by all-state RB Don Highsmith, was the only blemish on an otherwise brilliant season.
(#4) 1960 (8-0-1) Harold Bellis’ 1960 team captured the state championship outscoring the opposition 129-52 while posting 4 shutouts. Led by all-state tackle Tom Allen and all-state FB John Bronico, the highlights of the season included snapping Northampton, Pa.’s 17-game winning streak and edging unbeaten Easton 7-6 before 19,500 fans. P’burg football historian Joe Marchetto described this team as not the most talented, but one that “came to play”. We’re sure their opponents would agree. Only a 0-0 tie with Bethlehem (Pa.), who had lost 34-0 to Easton, kept the Stateliners from a perfect season.
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(#5) 1977 (10-1) The 1977 Liners were the first P’burg team to win a championship in state playoff action, beating Parsippany 26-0 to win the North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 sectional crown. The 1977 team featured RB Mike Ritz, the school’s first-ever 1,000 yard rusher. But once again its line play was the key, led by all-state tackle Steve Searfoss, who later starred at Ole Miss. These Liners posted 5 shutouts, outscoring their opponents 249-52. A 10-0 loss to Pennsylvania power Bethlehem Catholic spoiled this outstanding team’s bid for a perfect season.
(#6) 1982 (8-1) The 1982 team has flown under the radar screen for more than 25 years. But there is no way this team’s accomplishments can be overlooked. Finishing 8-1 and shutting out an amazing 7 of its 9 opponents, only a heartbreaking 15-14 upset loss to Bethlehem Liberty (Pa.) kept P’burg from a perfect season. These Liners outscored their opponents 261-22, an average margin of victory of nearly 4 TDs. Led by 2x all-state end Mark Klemka, P’burg tied for the East Penn Confernce title with Pa. foes Whitehall and Bethlehem Catholic. Had the school not been ruled ineligible to compete in the New Jersey state playoffs because of its all-Pennsylvania schedule, this team had state championship written all over it.
(#7) 1942 (9-0-1) Led by 2x all-state tackle Earl “Turk” Reed, who later starred at Rutgers, and all-state FB Sonny Judson, this juggernaut shut out its first 8 opponents and outscored the opposition 195-12 on the season. Along the way, the garnet and grey knocked off highly-rated South Jersey power Paulsboro, once-beaten Asbury Park, unbeaten Newark Barringer, and unbeaten Bethlehem (Pa.), led by NFL Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik. A 0-0 tie with Pa. power Allentown in a driving rain storm did not prevent this outstanding team from winning the Big 4 championship and being crowned North Jersey co-State Champion with Bloomfield and East Orange. The 1942 squad was without a doubt another of coach Frank Klein’s annual gridiron machines.
P’burg’s 1942 New Jersey state championship team
(#8) 2003 (9-1) The 2003 Stateliners are probably the most talented squad in P’burg history to be eligible for the state playoffs who did not win a sectional championship. Outscoring thier opponents 314-133, they were crowned Skyland Conference Delaware Division champion. The 2003 team put up big numbers behind a big, physical line and the record-setting performance of all-state RB Brandon Mason, who rushed for a school-record 1,880 yards on the season. The Stateliners capped off their season by knocking off an 11-1 Easton team ranked #1 in the Express-Times area by a 26-23 score. Only a disheartening 31-27 uoset loss to Ridge in the 1st round of the state playoffs, in which they led by 14 points, prevented this team from winning yet another sectional title.
(#9) 1990 (10-1) The 1990 Liners were crowned East Penn Conference champion following a 10-1 campaign, with their only loss coming to Bethlehem Catholic (Pa.) 17-6. They outscored their opponents 257-86, posted 3 shutouts, and gave up 10 points or more only 4 times in 11 games. Without question, the key to this team’s success was tailback Larrame Furman, considered by some to be the best running back in P’burg history. Furman, a 1st-team al