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Phillipsburg comes up short against defending 3A champion

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

PHILLIPSBURG -- Facing a fourth-and-goal from the Scott City 2-yard line trailing by a field goal early in the fourth quarter, Phillipsburg High School football coach J.B. Covington decided to keep his offense on the field.

The Panthers tried an option to the left side, and quarterback Riley Juenemann pitched the ball to halfback Grant Wickham, who was then tackled for a 4-yard loss, resulting in the turnover on downs.

That play summed up the majority of the night for Phillipsburg, which fell 24-21 to defending Class 3A state champion Scott City on Saturday in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.

"What we had seen on tape, everyone was pretty successful running option on them," Covington said. "They were just coming and making us pitch the ball early. They were getting people to the ball after we made the pitch and it was a tough get and a good read on who our reads were."

Scott City (10-1) led 7-0 after each team had a possession, the result of a 1-yard TD run by Martin Gough. Phillipsburg (9-2) responded with a quick drive and a 19-yard TD pass from Juenemann to Hunter Kohler. It ended up being Juenemann's only completion of the game.

A 31-yard field goal by Scott City's Tre Stewart gave the Beavers the lead back at 10-7 midway through the second quarter. Phillipsburg could never get anything going on offense, and Scott City got the ball back with 32 seconds remaining in the quarter at the Phillipsburg 46-yard line.

It took the Beavers three plays to cover the distance, and Scott City quarterback Trey O'Neil connected with Chris Pounds on a 21-yard TD with 15 seconds to play.

Scott City led 16-7 at halftime.

"We felt like we had a better first half, but with them being so explosive we knew it definitely wasn't over," Scott City coach Glenn O'Neil said. "You are afraid on every play. They have a chance to go the distance and they did on a couple of them."

Phillipsburg opened the second half by forcing a Scott City punt, then made its biggest play of the game when Wickham broke a few tackles at the line of scrimmage and burst free for a 91-yard TD run to make it 16-14.

Scott City answered quickly, scoring on third-and-11 with a 35-yard TD pass from O'Neil to Brayden Strine, pushing the Beavers' lead to 24-14 midway through the third quarter.

Then Wickham did it again, this time scoring from 62-yards out to cut the Panther deficit to 24-21. Wickham finished with 170 yards on nine carries.

"We felt like going into the half, even though we were down a little bit, we still had a chance," Covington said. "And Grant popped a couple and the guys were getting it done up front at the point of attack. That paid off."

Momentum was completely on the Panthers' side after Michael Dusin intercepted an O'Neil pass and returned it down to the Scott City 5-yard line. But for runs plays, the final an option to Wickham that netted a 4-yard loss, and Phillipsburg came away without any points.

The Panthers had more chances down the stretch, but a pair of interceptions by Juenemann late in the quarter would lead to the loss and the end of the Phillipsburg season.

"It's a tough one to lose," Covington said. "There is only one team out of 64 that comes out completely happy. I'm extremely proud of this group of kids and how all 37 of them came together to make a team. They are good football players and a great bunch of kids."