Sunday, July 11, 2004
All-stars struggle to corral Phillips
By Robert Anderson
The Roanoke Times

HAMPTON, Va. - At 10:45 p.m. Friday, a long Virginia High School Coaches Association All-Star week was over.

VHSCA officials were anxious to hand out the MVP awards for the just-completed football game and head somewhere for a cool drink. "Where's No.11! Hey, No.11, get over here! Somebody find No.11!" came the collective shouts.

No surprise. Jacob Phillips had eluded his pursuers once again.

Minutes later, however, they nabbed their prey. Phillips then departed Darling Stadium - where quarterbacks such as Michael Vick, Allen Iverson, Aaron Brooks and Ronald Curry once called home - clutching the MVP plaque as the West's top offensive player.

Phillips, who had a 48-4 record in four years as the starting quarterback at Bath County and finished his career No.4 in VHSL history with 9,116 yards total offense, had done it again.

Phillips shredded an East defense led by Maryland-bound Kent Hicks with 207 yards passing and four touchdowns as he led the West to a 34-7 victory - its fourth straight win in the series.

The William and Mary signee also led all rushers with 41 yards on four carries, no surprise to Bath County head coach Will Fields, who served as a West assistant.

"The speed adjustment, I was worried about it, but Jacob's Jacob. He rises to the occasion," Fields said.

Phillips benefitted by the superb coaching of the West staff, running the no-huddle, shotgun offense of Gretna's Robert Senseney. Calling signals from wristbands distributed to the backs and receivers, Phillips was flawless with 168 yards passing and three touchdowns in the first half as the West rolled to a 27-0 lead.

"He took to it like a duck to water," Senseney said.

The Gretna coach made certain he retrieved the wristbands after the game, lest his secrets fall into enemy hands.

Only one of Phillips' passes did. Most were snagged by Liberty University-bound receiver Brandon Turner of Gretna, who had seven catches for 133 yards and two TDs, all in the first half.

"I can see why he had 80 or 90-some catches for 1,600 yards," Phillips said. "All our receivers were great. All I had to do was throw it up there and they'd go get it."

Phillips hopes for more big performances in the Tidewater area. He will soon report to W&M, where senior quarterback Lang Campbell - the 2000 East offensive MVP - is a returning starter.

"This was a good warm-up," said Phillips, the 2003 Timesland offensive player of the year. "At least it helps me get used to the weather down here. Hopefully I'm the quarterback they want. I'm pretty sure I'll fit in somewhere."

Phillips' first TD throw was a 4-yard swing pass to Robert Barcliff of George Wythe, who learned Sunday that he would replace Graham running back Ahmad Bradshaw on the West roster.

"I thought about not coming because they called me so late," Barcliff said. "Luckily, I was already working out instead of sitting around on my butt watching TV."

Barcliff and newfound buddy Olu Hall of James Robinson - the West's defensive MVP - will spend this season at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham. Another West player, Radford's Trey Mitchell, will walk on at William and Mary as a place-kicker.

Mitchell, who made 37 of 43 field goals attempts in his career, booted FGs of 36 and 32 yards Friday. He's still trying to figure out why no college offered him a scholarship.

"I have no idea," the 165-pound Mitchell said. "Maybe it's my size. William and Mary was pretty much the only school that recruited me."

William Fleming linebacker Maurice Kitchens, the 2003 Timesland defensive player of the year, has a scholarship to Division I-A Marshall. Kitchens chose not to join the increasing number of top VHSL football and basketball stars who bypass the East-West games to enroll in summer school.

"I should have been up [in Huntington, W.Va.] really," Kitchens said. "If I was up there, I'd already be faster and stronger. I'm thinking about redshirting. It all depends on my strength and speed."