Friday Night Hero: Salisbury’s Dominque Phillips
By Mike London
Salisbury free safety Dominique Phillips produced an interception near the SHS goal-line in the final minute of Friday’s 16-8 victory against West Davidson, but the fun was just starting.
“The coaches teach us to just get down in that situation,” Phillips said. “But that rush of adrenaline was pumping and I was running.”
Phillips headed upfield. Then he fumbled the ball. Then he fell on top of it to preserve the game, Salisbury’s 7-0 record and coach Joe Pinyan’s sanity.
Coaches had calmed down enough to joke about the heart attack-inducing play at Tuesday’s practice.
“As a person, you’re yelling for Dominique to take it back all the way,” Pinyan said. “As a coach, you’re yelling for him to get down. The funny thing is Dominique told (defensive coordinator) Ryan Crowder that he did decide to get down. And that’s when he lost the ball.”
While Phillips created anxiety in Friday’s frantic final minutes, he’s been all the Hornets hoped he would be this season.
Friday was the 6-foot-1, 175-pound junior’s best game ó with or without the pick. Against a physical West Davidson team he was vital in run support with five initial hits and five assists.
“A free safety has to think pass first, so 10 tackles is big-time,” Salisbury defensive backs coach Webb Brannon said. “You don’t count the free safety as a guy you have to block, so when Dominique is coming up and holding plays to 2-yard gains, that’s strong.”
Phillips, who spends weekends working at Taco Bell to help his family, has a background on offense.
An “eight-quarter” player dividing his time as a jayvee running back and varsity DB as a sophomore, Phillips pilfered passes in varsity games against Central Davidson and Carson.
Salisbury enjoys serious depth at running back, and the presence of senior stars Dario Hamilton and A.J. Ford, rugged fullback Ike Whitaker, and freshmen phenoms Dejoun Jones, Deshaun Lyles and Dominique Dismuke led to Phillips’ full-time conversion to defense this summer.
Pinyan was torn on how best to employ Phillips, but assistant David Johnson convinced Pinyan he would be most valuable at free safety.
Good call. He’s brought tenacity and speed to a strong DB corps that also includes Martin Hosch-Cathcart, Jeremiah Stockdale and Joseph Figueroa.
“I’ve got their back and they’ve got mine,” Phillips said. “We go on the field yelling, ‘No fear!’ ”
Phillips is reading quarterbacks better and more quickly each game, and that’s making him a larger factor against the run.
“Dominique enjoys the hits more than the interceptions,” Brannon said. “He takes good angles, gets downhill, and when he makes that decision to come he comes in a hurry. He’s not that big a guy, but he’ll lay the wood pretty good. West Davidson was that breakout game we’ve been waiting for from him.”
Phillips may not be a household name like Hamilton and Ford, but his transition to defense has been successful.
“He won’t be in the limelight as much as he would be as a running back, but we couldn’t be more tickled with how he’s turned out,” Pinyan said. “Dominique is still more of an athlete than he is a football player, but he’s getting there.”
And what about next season, after Hamilton and Ford graduate?
“If Joe wants him back on offense, he’ll have to wrestle me for him,” Brannon said.