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Unbeaten Phillipsburg handles Larned
spt jf Larned McConnell
Larned High School running back Anthony McConnell breaks a tackle and carries for a first down against Phillipsburg on Friday night in Larned. - photo by Janet Fleske Courtesy Photo

LARNED — Unbeaten Phillipsburg came into Larned with some trepidation here Friday evening, remembering that they had barely escaped, 14-7, last year in the 3A playoffs against an inspired Larned team. Whether it was nervousness or the early 4:45 start-due to weather concerns-both teams struggled offensively in the first quarter. Punts and three-and-outs were the common denominator in a game that finished the first quarter in a scoreless 0-0 tie. Then lightning struck, literally, and the end result was a 34-6 Phillipsburg win.
Behind the power running of all-state-candidate Kirk Coomes and some slashing runs by John Gower, Phillipsburg began moving the ball in the second quarter and with 8:31 remaining before halftime, Gower dove in from the 1-yard line and following the conversion kick by Jon Hunnacutt, the Panthers had a 7-0 lead.
Then lightning from Mother Nature took over, causing a 40-minute storm delay. When play was resumed Larned was held on downs and punted to just the Phillipsburg 46. Behind the running of Coomes and two pass completions by quarterback Trey Sides, the Panthers moved deeper into Indian territory and with 2:34 left before halftime Coomes scooted 24 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead that would hold up until halftime.
In the third quarter Larned was forced to punt but the receiving of the punt was fumbled and Larned recovered on the Phillipsburg 41. After a first down powered by the running of Wes Davis, quarterback Carson Smith connected on a 28-yard pass to Mason Perez that moved the ball to the 9-yard line and, with 7:37 remaining in the third stanza, Wes Davis powered 9 yards and a touchdown. The extra point was blocked leaving the score 14-6 and it looked like Larned had the momentum.
Then another kind of lightning struck. John Gower gathered in the kickoff on the three-yard line and raced 97 yards for a touchdown, stunning the Larned crowd and players. The quick turnaround made it 21-6 and Phillipsburg had regained the momentum. At 2:21 of the third quarter the game was again stopped for a weather delay that would last two hours. At 9:35pm the two teams resumed play but it was all Phillipsburg after that as Coomes would ramble 33 yards for one touchdown and Treylan Gross would power for 13 yards and a touchdown with 2:27 left in the game for a 34-6 Final score.
Larned was frustrated with a number of crippling big penalties that were drive stoppers. Larned coach A.B. Stokes said, “We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to be better if we want to beat teams like Phillipsburg. They’re good but we made too many mistakes. Too many penalties. We just have to get better.”
Kirk Coomes led the Panthers in rushing with 22 carries for 174 yards. John Gower added 49 yards plus the big 97 yard kickoff return. He produced two touchdowns. Quarterback Trey Sides was 6 of 11 passing for 84 yards.
Larned was led in rushing by Wes Davis with 11 carries for 60 yards. Anthony McConnell who left in the second quarter with an injury totaled 7 carries for 31 yards and Shevin Martin added 35 yards on 5 carries. Quarterback Carson smith was 5 of 12 passing for 49 yards.
Both teams begin District play next week as 6-0 Phillipsburg hosts Thomas More Prep and Larned, 2-4, hosts Lyons.