ELKHART — No one carried the load like Joe Phillips did a year ago. Now Levon Johnson, Elkhart Central’s football coach, wants to expand Phillips’ role further in 2014.
Aug. 22 — at Elkhart Memorial
Aug. 29 — Goshen
Sept. 5 — Penn
Sept. 12 — at South Bend St. Joseph
Sept. 19 — South Bend Riley
Sept. 26 — at Mishawaka
Oct. 3 — at Fort Wayne Snider
Oct. 10 — South Bend Adams
Oct. 17 — at Mishawaka Marian
"All we did last year was hand off and pitch to him. We never really never got a chance to show his receiving skills,“ Johnson said. ”He may have caught only 15 passes last year, but his abilities out of the backfield as a receiver are amazing. He’s a kid you have to account for.“
Phillips ran 258 times in 11 games, including a record-setting 317 yards versus Goshen in the Class 5A sectional. With Antwaan Allen locked in at quarterback, the Blue Blazers believe they’ll have more balance. Johnson shares his thoughts on three elements to Central’s season:
Sound at signal-caller
"There’s no doubt. He’s our leader. Coach (Darrell) Higgins has had a whole year to work with him,” Johnson said. “Last year, he was our backup, maybe third-string quarterback, and our No. 3 receiver. He had it in his head, ’I’m a receiver, now I’m being forced to play quarterback,’ but he’s really embraced being quarterback.
"And it’s not just the position drills. It’s the technique. He’s embraced the leadership. Once I put you under center, that means you’ve earned my trust. Antwaan has done that. He gets it.”
"The sky’s the limit for him. He’s put on 10 pounds since last year without losing any quickness. Strong kid, his work during the winter has been impressive,“ Johnson said. ”Joe just needs a little-bitty crease. He doesn’t need a whole lot of space. Somehow he gets thin, gets through and still accelerates on the other side.“
Holes to fill
"Our biggest concern now is up front in the O-line. We have a Jackson Fann and Issac Barrios back and they’ve done a good job, but we lost three two-year starters,“ Johnson said. ”Last year, out of a great group of receivers, we only had Blake Faus back. What we’ve had is receivers who’ll step up and do what we’ve needed them to do. It’s a developing group.
"Joe Holmes is back at tight end, but we need him to be more consistent at running routes and catching the ball, but Langston Johnson is our leading receiver coming back with two catches. So we’re young there.“