Friday Night Hero: A.L. Brown’s Phillip Halstenberg
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS ó A.L. Brown offensive line coach and weight-room wizard Todd Hagler says Phillip Halstenberg is one of the smartest guys in the school ó and one of the strongest.
ěPound for pound, maybe the strongest,î Hagler said.
Both Halstenbergís mind and muscle are being challenged by his new position.
A starting guard in the preseason, he suddenly became the center when Hunter Morris broke a leg in the Green-White scrimmage that preceded the opener with Shelby.
ěLosing Morris was a real blow,î head coach Mike Newsome said. ěPeople donít really think about how important offensive linemen are until you lose one. But we lost a big (250-pound) kid who was a very good player, a kid who made all the line calls and a kid who may have been the best long snapper in the state.î
Halstenberg knew when Morris went down his role would change dramatically.
ěI was upset to see Hunter get hurt,î Halstenberg said. ěI also knew that it was probably me that was going to have to step in there. When we were freshmen on the jayvees, Hunter got hurt and I moved to center. Iíve practiced there some over the years.î
Halstenberg is a typical program guy for the Wonders. Heís transitioned from dues-paying to playing.
Hagler says Halstenberg was a ěreal goodî jayvee player as a sophomore, but he mostly stood on the sideline and watched on Fridays as a varsity junior.
ěHe wasnít one of the best five, so he really didnít get to play much,î Hagler said. ěHe wouldíve played a lot more if weíd been beating the crap out of people, but just about every game was tight. He kept a good attitude about it. He kept working.î
All Wonders are determined to get bigger, faster and stronger each offseason, and Halstenberg did that.
His intelligence helps him out as well.
ěHeís so smart,î said Hagler with a laugh. ěThe amazing this is that he can understand what a guy like me is trying to tell him.î
Besides intensity and enthusiasm, Newsome brought new plays and new blocking schemes from Butler.
Brownís guards and tackles pull more now, and the linemen are asked to make more adjustments based on the type of defensive front theyíre facing.
Halstenberg was just getting it all sorted out when he had to change positions.
ěWe looked at Phillip as a do-anything type who would get in there and take on all challenges,î Newsome said. ěHeís listed 210, although even 200 is probably a stretch. Fortunately, heís extremely strong. Big and tall, wide and small, he believes he can block íem.î
Halstenberg says his big adjustment is the obvious one. The guy across the line from him was always larger in the past, but now that guy may outweigh him 75 pounds.
ěAll those guys that play defense in the middle are big, so Iíve started eating everything I can,î said Halstenberg, issuing a warning to every hamburger and pizza joint in Kannapolis. ěWeíre practicing harder than I ever have in my life, so itís a struggle to stay at 200.î
Brownís had little trouble running the ball so far ó 741 rushing yards in two games.
The Wonders were so dominant in a 63-12 win against South Rowan on Friday that Halstenberg and the other starters sat down before halftime.
ěUsually, the offensive line is the part of the team that is the slowest to come together, but I was very pleased with their play on Friday,î Newsome said.
Haglerís hope is that as the season unfolds the Wonders (2-0) can develop a center and move Halstenberg back to his original spot.
ěI do think weíre best with Phillip at guard, and the plan is to move him back,î Hagler said. ěIím sure heíd love to play guard this Friday, but heíd never come to us and say that. Heís the ultimate team player.î