Friday Night Hero: A.L. Brown’s Kalif Phillips

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 21, 2011

By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS ó A.L. Brown head coach Mike Newsome learned last Friday morning that Damien Washington would be out for the SPC opener with Robinson, a critical game for the Wonders in light of the 41-13 shellacking theyíd taken from Porter Ridge a week earlier.
Newsome had options.
Call in sick. Listen to Kris Kristoffersonís ěWhy me, Lord?î on DVD. Maybe beat his head on the walls of the locker room.
Instead, Newsome calmly shifted gears to Plan B, and Plan B at A.L. Brown is usually better than Plan A most places. As good as the UNC-bound Washington is, Newsome figured he had a reasonable facsimile on the roster in junior back Kalif Phillips.
When Rocky River keyed on Washington earlier this season, the Wonders unleashed Phillips a little bit and he accounted for 142 yards in rushes and receptions and visited the end zone twice. That was a hint of things to come.
ěWe did our gameplanning on the bus ride to Robinson,î Newsome said with a grin. ěI figured if we needed a guy step up for us, that guy was going to have to be Kalif. I drew up a script with 12 plays that would put the ball in his hands. Then I told Kalif that we all needed him to step up, and he said, ëCoach, I got it.í î
Newsome coached outstanding backs in his time at Butler High in Matthews, including UNC veteran Ryan Houston and Ball State true freshman Jahwan Edwards, who is setting the world on fire after barely slipping away from Catawba.
ěIíve coached good ones, including Damien and Kalif here,î Newsome said. ěKalif brings an awful lot to the table. Heís not as big as those other guys, but heís got the same kind of strength. Heís surprisingly powerful, but he also has the speed to just run away from defenders.î
Brownís defense pitched a 48-0 shutout on Friday, and QB Brandon Eppinger dialed in after a slow start to throw four touchdown passes.
But the big story was Phillips, who rushed 13 times for 181 yards and two TDs and caught two passes for another pair of TDs.
ěNo one play stood out Friday, not really,î Phillip said. ěIt was just kind of all night long. I showed some speed first, then some power.î
If heís been asked to be Robin most of this season, Phillips definitely didnít wreck the Batmobile when he had his chance to be the main man.
ěWeíve got a lot of really good players here, and I feel like Iím one of íem,î he said. ěWith Damien out, well you just do what youíve gotta do. We had great blocking. It really felt kinda easy.î
Phillips, 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, may have been a featured varsity player as a sophomore at a lot of schools, but sophs are almost always dues-paying jayvees in Kannapolis, where jayvee titles are taken seriously and thereís a persistent belief that jayvee victories prepare players to win when they arrive on varsity.
The only question about Phillips coming into his junior season was whether he would line up on offense or defense.
ěCoach Newsome kept telling me Coach (Noah) Lyon might need him for defense,î running backs coach Josh Reeves said with a laugh. ěI kept saying he was the guy we needed to be our ěB-back.î Kalif is hard-nosed. He has great vision. Heís football smart and he has power.î
Phillips has 423 yards in 50 carries this season ó almost 8.5 yards per rushing attempt.. Heís actually had more rushes now than Washington, who has accumulated an amazing 538 yards on only 39 carries.
Both are also dangerous catching the football, and Wonder fans are justifiably excited. When Washington returns to join Phillips, scoreboards around the SPC may light up.
ěKalif got a lot of touches Friday,î Reeves said proudly. ěHe showed what he can do.î