PHILLIPSBURG (updated Sunday Nov. 19, 12:18 p.m.) – The Irvington High School varsity football team’s drive for a state championship ended in heartbreaking fashion
The fourth-seeded Blue Knights attempted a go-ahead two-point conversion late in the game, but came up short, as they lost at top-seeded and undefeated Phillipsburg, 21-20, Friday night, Nov. 17, in Phillipsburg. It was the second year in a row that the Blue Knights lost a playoff game on a failed two-point conversion to end the season.
Second-year head coach “Smoke” Pierre’s team had its six-game winning streak snapped and ended the season with a solid 8-3 record. Phillipsburg, which improved to 10-0, advances to the North 2, Group 4 championship game for the fourth time since 2013.
With the Blue Knights trailing 21-14 with 1:20 left in the game, IHS senior quarterback Brandon Robinson connected with sophomore Zahir Swann on a 19-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to one. Irvington elected to go for the go-ahead two-point conversion. The Blue Knights were called for a false-start penalty as Robinson threw a pass that fell incomplete. However, the play was ruled “dead” because of the false-start penalty. With the ball now at the 8-yard line, the Blue Knights again went for two, but Robinson’s pass fell incomplete.
The Blue Knights attempted an onside side kick. The ball was bobbled by Phillipsburg and Irvington nearly recovered it. But Phillipsburg was able to recover it and held on for the win.
Despite the devastating loss, the Blue Knights enjoyed another fine season under Pierre as they won the North Jersey Super Football Conference-Freedom White Division championship after finishing 8-2 last year.
After trailing 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, IHS took a 14-7 halftime lead on the strength of two Robinson TD passes. Robinson hit senior and North Carolina State-bound Jasiah Provillon on a 7-yard TD pass with 4:40 left in the second quarter. Robinson hit Swann on another TD pass, followed by the two-point conversion, with 3:53 left in the half.
In the third quarter, Phillipsburg recovered a blocked punt and scored on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal to tie it 14-14 with 1:21 left.
Phillipsburg broke the tie on a 38-yard TD pass on fourth down with 4:36 left in the game.
Last season, the Blue Knights, seeded No. 2, lost to No. 7 seed Randolph, 13-12, in the quarterfinal round at home. After scoring a TD to make it 13-12, Irvington went for two, but the conversion failed.
NOTES – The Blue Knights played in their first road playoff game since 2005 when they lost at Piscataway in the North 2, Group 4 semifinals. It also is just Irvington’s third-ever road playoff.
Philliipsburg advances to its 14th state championship and is seeking its eighth state title. The Stateliners will face second-seeded North Hunterdon (10-1) in the final. North Hunterdon defeated sixth-seeded Sayreville, 29-7, in the other semifinal.