Friday Night Hero: West Rowan’s KaJuan Phillips
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó Before West Rowan’s wild 39-36 win against Davie County on Friday, the average sports fan had no idea what “KaJuan” was.
A new energy drink?
The capital of Uzbekistan?
One of Saturn’s 61 moons and moonlets?
None of the above.
Now we know. KaJuan Phillips is a senior wide receiver for the Falcons, and he’s not just taking up space opposite Jon Crucitti.
West had need of numerous offensive heroes to deal with Davie in the annual shootout between the neighbors. Phillips ó the new K.P. ó was a difference-maker. He hauled in five receptions for 92 yards and one TD. He also forced two yellow flags for pass interference that didn’t show up in his receiving stats.
In a way, Phillips, listed at 6 feet, 170 pounds, has come out of nowhere his senior year. In a way, he hasn’t.
West coaches have known all along he could play.
“I had a lot of success my sophomore year in football on the jayvees, but I was also involved a lot in AAU basketball,” Phillips said. “I didn’t play football my junior year, but my step-dad told me I really needed to get back out there.”
By not being out there, Phillips missed out on 15 victories and a ring ceremony honoring the 3A state champions.
“KaJuan realized he made a mistake,” West head coach Scott Young said. “He’s been working hard since he decided to come back to football last spring. He’s had strong practices. In some of the 7-on-7 things we did during the summer, he showed flashes and glimpses of being a really good player.”
West receivers coach Butch Browning was confident Phillips would be a factor. He liked to block and he didn’t drop passes.
“We knew he’d be an asset,” Browning said. “He was someone who would give teams a threat to think about on the other side from Crucitti. If KaJuan can get to it, he’ll catch it.”
The first tangible reward for months of behind-the scenes sweat came in West’s 33-6 victory against Northwest Cabarrus in Week 2. Phillips had just one catch, but it was an 11-yard TD.
“My first TD,” Phillips said. “I was pretty happy.”
West coaches showed their growing faith in Phillips by making him an integral part of the gameplan for Davie.
“We saw he’d be matched up most of the time with Davie’s No. 9 (5-9, 150-pound Teddy Allen),” West QB B.J. Sherrill said. “We thought KaJuan could take advantage of the size difference.”
He did. Trailing 21-14 in the second quarter, West faced a critical fourth-and-1 at the Davie 35. Phillips drew a pass-interference flag on a rout over the middle for a first down. On the next snap, Sherrill spotted Phillips in the right corner for a 20-yard TD.
Phillips drew another flag in the third quarter to set up first-and-goal at the 9. Crucitti scored on the next play for a 26-21 lead.
Finally, on the drive that put West ahead to stay, Phillips caught back-to-back passes from Sherrill for 23 and 12 yards.
“We hit good plays and they held onto me some,” Phillips said. “It was a good game, with everyone playing as hard as they could. There was a lot of contact. I like contact.”
After he helped West win its school-record 17th straight game, Phillips is no longer anonymous. He ranks fourth in the county with 103 receiving yards.
“KaJuan’s earned himself a place as our solid No. 2 receiver, and with a lot of teams giving Crucitti special attention, KaJuan should have success,” Young said. “He has decent speed, decent size and a real good set of hands.”
With Brantley Horton graduated, Crucitti’s glad to have a new partner.
“It took KaJuan a game or two to get back into football mentally, but he came through Friday,” Crucitti said. “He’s gonna be fine.”