By Conor Nicholl, for Kpreps.com (email@example.com)
Posted: October 14, 2012 - 9:59 PM
Turnovers are important in nearly every high school football game, but miscues could play a significant role in Friday's highly anticipated Class 3A, District 14 matchup when 6-0 Phillipsburg travels to 6-0 Beloit, ranked No. 4 in the classification.
Phillipsburg has played most of the season without senior star quarterback Sean Newlan, but has outscored opponents 240-32. The Panthers lead Kansas 11-man football in scoring defense.
Beloit has tallied at least 50 points in every contest and defeated teams by a collective margin of 388-51. The Trojans have the state's top offense among 11-man teams. Phillipsburg enters the game on a 15-game regular season winning streak. The only loss in that span was a 48-7 loss to Beloit in the postseason last year.
“They are awesome again this year,” Newlan said. “I think that it will be a very physical game and very, very fun to play in.”
The Panthers have forced 21 turnovers, including intercepting 12 passes, one behind Meade for second most in Kansas, according to maxpreps.com.
As well, Phillipsburg has recovered nine fumbles and scored three non-offensive touchdowns. The Panthers have allowed just 18 points since Week 1. However, Beloit has zero turnovers -- and zero fumbles this year.
Seniors Jacey Minkler (55 tackles, three sacks) and Thomas Oliff (three sacks) have created pressure up front, while the Panthers' secondary has continually made plays. Senior Tad Thompson leads the team with four interceptions, tied for second-most among Kansas 11-man
Senior Seth Derr has picked off three passes and also played well on offense with a team-leading 276 receiving yards and three receiving TDs. The all-around effort has helped drastically improve a defense that permitted 27.1 points per game last year.
“Our defense has done a great job, especially up front on the line,” Newlan said. “There is not a whole lot that people notice up front with all the activity that goes on in the secondary and stuff. … But they do a great job of stuffing the run and then the secondary does a great job of covering up the routes and stuff like that. I feel like we have the best secondary in our league and possibly in 3A.”
Newlan suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 2 against Oberlin and then had an allergic reaction to a chemical in his pre-wrap and had to miss more time. He returned last week and played the entire first half in a 59-0 home win against Thomas More Prep-Marian.
"We just wanted to come out and fine tune things a little bit – come out and be physical," Phillipsburg coach J.B. Covington said of last Friday's win. "We had a physical game (in Week 5) and coming up in our district, it's important for us to be ready for that."
For the season, Newlan has completed 8 of 10 passes for 278 yards with three TDs. He has rushed 21 times for 252 yards and two scores, one of four Panthers will at least 230 rushing yards.
Newlan is one of Kansas' best quarterbacks -- but it's likely Panther senior Justin Juenemann is the state's best kicker. He has 14 touchbacks, six field goals and 30 extra points. He is first in the state in field goals and second in kickoff yards.
"I am so proud of our team, and our coaches have done a good job,” Newlan said.
The Trojans, long known for its offense and winning ways, have put together another strong year. Beloit has averaged 386 rushing yards a game. Tanner Niemczyk has rushed for 595 yards and eight TDs, while Bowe Behymer has tacked on 592 yards and 10 scores and Stanten Krone has 433 rushing yards and 11 TDs.
While Beloit has rushed for big yards in previous years, the lack of turnovers is a change. The Trojans had ten interceptions and 20 fumbles (10 lost) last year en route to averaging 45 points per game. In 2010, Beloit went 10-3 and played in the sub-state championship game. That year, the Trojans recorded nine interceptions and 13 fumbles (all lost).