By Patrice Nkrumah, Chicago Crusader
For the second time in three years, Chicago’s Phillips High School from Bronzeville has won the state championship in football Class 5A. The Wildcats finished off a perfect season with a 33-7 drumming of Dunlap at Huskies Stadium on the campus of Northern Illinois University last weekend.
Phillips (14-0) made history in 2015 when they became the first Chicago Public School to win a state championship in football. Last year they came up short in defending their title, but this year the Wildcats were all business from day one.
“After we won in 2015 I think we didn’t realize how hard it would be to win the following year when you have a target on your back. But we used that learning experience and parlayed it into this year,” said Phillips Coach Troy McAllister.
Phillips opened the scoring with a 64-yard touchdown run by Anthony Davis with 6:15 remaining in the first quarter. Dunlap (13-1) had the same trouble as most of Phillips’ opponents did this season; matching the Wildcats overall team speed. On the artificial turf at Huskies Stadium, it just made it more difficult for Dunlap.
“Today we needed six inches of snow and wind,” joked Dunlap Coach Brett Cazalet. “It was a rough going but I’m still proud of our kids. We had a great season but came up a little bit short in the final game.”
The Wildcats added to their lead on defense. Craig Elmore scooped up a fumble and returned it 41 yards to make it 14-0 late in the first quarter. It was the beginning of a big day for Elmore who was the game MVP. Elmore scored another TD in a more conventional way, plunging into the end zone on a 1-yard run to extend the lead to three scores with 4:34 remaining in the half. The Wildcats went into the locker room with a 21-point advantage and all of the confidence in the world.
Dunlap managed to score halfway through the third quarter on a five play, 61-yard drive, capped off by a TD reception by Josiah Miamen from quarterback Ryan Erickson. But the Wildcats responded with Elmore’s third touchdown of the day, this time on a two-yard run to make it 27-7 with just over seven minutes remaining. The TD gave Phillips control of the game and seemed to take the wind out of Dunlap’s sails.
The Wildcats capped off the game’s scoring on a J’Bore Gibbs 27-yard pass to Joe Thompson with 6:22 left in the game to make the final score 33-7. The Phillips win capped off a good Thanksgiving weekend for CPS football.
Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel released this statement on Wendell Phillips Academy Football Championship, “Congratulations to Wendell Phillips Academy High School for winning their second state football championship in three seasons! The Wildcats’ success on the field is matched only by the academic strides Phillips Academy students have made in the classroom. Chicago is proud of their success on and off the field and I want to congratulate the entire Phillips community on another sensational season.”
The day before Simeon defeated St. Ignatius 19-16 to win the Prep Bowl at Gately Stadium. CPS Football Coordinator Cynthia Irvin said it was a great year for CPS football with Al Raby finishing 3rd in Class 4A as well. She said CPS football has turned the corner after decades of struggling in the state playoffs.
“I’m proud of our teams and coaches. They are writing a new chapter for CPS football,” she said.