ELKHART — If Joe Phillips could line up, and thereby fill up, against Goshen every week, he might be All-World. And Goshen might be eternally gassed.
Not that he doesn’t also pile up yards against other teams, but a year ago in sectional play, the Elkhart Central running back unleashed a performance unforgettable in Blue Blazer lore. He rushed for a school-record 305 yards on a school-record 44 carries and two touchdowns as part of a 35-21 road victory over the Redskins.
And that came after a 167-yard, 30-carry, three-TD game in a 42-14 win against host Goshen during the regular season.
That he undoubtedly had the Redskins’ attention for this latest meeting Friday, Aug. 29, at Rice Field didn’t help Goshen much.
For his encore, Phillips settled for 228 yards on 34 carries, a TD and a two-point conversion as Central recorded a 28-20 victory.
“I knew they were going to bring the heat at me, and the first series, we came out a little sloppy,” Phillips said. “But our O-line brought us up. I feel like they got all of us going.”
Phillips first three carries qualified as an unintended tribute to his uniform No. 1. He gained exactly 1 yard on each, and by six carries he had just 5 yards, thanks to a 5-yard loss.
It didn’t matter. Coach Levon Johnson was going to keep giving his senior the ball.
“Yes,” Johnson said of whether he worries that he’s sometimes calling the 5-foot-7, 143-pound Phillips’ number too often. “However, he’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever been around. I keep telling him, ‘I want to make sure we don’t use up your carries,’ but he just gives us great effort on every play.”
“A little,” Phillips said of whether he gets exhausted, “but that’s just the game. I gotta be there for my family. I want to put my team on my back. It’s a family.”
“He’s every bit the player we thought he was,” first-year Goshen coach Kyle Park said of Phillips. “We knew they were going to try to get him outside. They ran up the middle with him more than we anticipated, but he’s a great back. One of the things you notice with him is he’s always falling forward, always getting an extra yard or two every carry. That’s the sign of a good back.”
Phillips would like to eventually be a collegiate back, but the interest he’s drawn from scouts has been “up and down, (especially) since my injury in the spring.”
Phillips suffered a severe right-ankle sprain in track, and said he still doesn’t feel totally healed.
“It’s (better) every day,” Phillips said. “I’d say I’m 90, 95 (percent).”
Even at less than 100 percent, Phillips yearns to be in for 100 percent of the offensive plays. On Friday, however, he missed one series while dealing with cramps.
“There were times last year he would’ve tried to stay in the game when he was cramping up a little bit,” Johnson said, “but he’s smart enough to know when he needs a break, and enough of a leader to know there’s guys out here who have his back and will come in and do a job.”
“It makes me want to be out there even more,” Phillips said of coming out. “It kind of makes me feel like cramps are mind things, but that’s because I just want to be out there.”
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ELKHART CENTRAL 28, GOSHEN 20
Scoring by Quarters
Goshen 0 7 6 7 — 20
Central 7 6 15 0 — 28
School — Scoring Play
C — Joe Phillips 1 run; Jacob aiser kick, 0:32.
G — Cam Kline 74 run; JT Plavchak kick, 9:02.
C — Kyle Moreno 7 pass from Antwaan Allen; kick blocked, 0:44.
C — Langston Johnson 66 pass from Allen; Phillips run, 8:13.
C — Allen 1 run; Kaiser kick, 4:19
G — Kline 11 run; kick blocked, 1:00
G — Kline 5 run; Plavchak kick, 3:33.
Officials: Tim Fogarty, Todd Clark, Ron Nagle, Bob Ritchie, Zach Shupe.
Team Statistics Go Ce
Net yards rushing 193 314
Net yards passing 72 134
Total Yards 265 448
First Downs 12 23
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 1-1
Penalties 3-26 7-61
Goshen: Rushing — Cam Kline 21-165, Jeffery Stoll 7-22. Passing — Derek DeMeyer 9-16-72 (1 int.). Receiving — Brandon Scott 1-20, Kline 3-21, Josuel Sanchez 2-13.
Central: Rushing — Joe Phillips 34-228, Antwaan Allen 13-50, Lincoln Bowers 7-30. Passing — Allen 13-24-134 (0 int.). Receiving — Langston Johnson 5-88, Lenzy Davis 1-12, Jontavius Webb 1-11, Kyle Moreno 2-10, Joe Holmes 2-10.
Interceptions: Central — Vinny Schnell.
Fumble recoveries: Goshen — Nick Gerber; Central — Schnell, Bowers.