Fabian McCray steps up, leads Phillips into Class 5A state semifinals

Phillips' Fabian McCray (7) catches a pass for a touchdown in the second half of the Wildcats 15-3 victory, November 11, 2017. Allen Cunningham / For the Sun-Times.

Phillips has relied on running back Craig Elmore all season. He’s the engine that makes the Wildcats’ offense go. So when Lemont shut down Elmore and the entire running game on Saturday at Gately Stadium, someone else had to step up.

Fabian McCray answered the call. The junior caught eight passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns and also grabbed two huge interceptions to lead No. 4 Phillips to a 15-3 win against Lemont in the Class 5A state quarterfinals.

“It’s a lot of pressure on the rest of us when the running game isn’t on,” McCray said. “We are so used to [Elmore] dominating, but it just wasn’t working today.”

Elmore had 25 carries for 50 yards. The Indians (10-2) even stopped Phillips at the goal line on three consecutive runs in the first half.

Phillips (12-0) led 9-0 at half. Lemont converted a field goal in the third quarter to tighten the game. McCray’s second interception of the game was in the end zone, it swung the momentum the Wildcats’ way for good.

“I knew he was going to throw a slant,” McCray said. “From watching film I knew how the quarterback was going to throw the ball. It made it much easier.”

Phillips quarterback J’Bore Gibbs had his usual dependable, steady performance.

“The running game just didn’t succeed like we wanted,” Gibbs said. “That puts a lot more pressure on me, but I’m ok with that.”

Gibbs was 15-for-24 for 164 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, which came on a deflection. He also had 10 carries for 37 yards, despite having a visible limp throughout the second half.

Gibbs and McCray connected for a 34-yard touchdown in the second quarter and a 20-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Joseph Thompson had four receptions for 26 yards and Jahleel Billingsley had two catches for 24 yards for Phillips.

“We knew they were going to load up the box so we could get a one-on-one matchup with either Billingsley or McCray. Great throws, great catches,” Phillips coach Troy McAllister said. “That’s what you expect your playmakers to do.”

The Wildcats totally shut down Lemont’s offense. The Indians only managed 28 rushing yards and 38 passing yards. Phillips defensive end Deandre Johnson tackled Lemont running back Anthony Martin for a safety late in the first quarter to open the scoring.

“This is one we felt we could have got,” Lemont coach Brett Kooi said. “That’s not a knock on [Phillips], they are a doggone good football team. Our defense put us in situations where we could have gotten it done.”

Phillips will make a 120 mile trip west to Sterling for the semifinals next weekend. The Golden Warriors (12-0) beat Marian Central 22-10 on Saturday. The Wildcats made a long road trip to Johnsburg for the semifinals last season and lost.

“We still have that taste on our tongue and we don’t ever want that again,” McCray said. “We have to stay focused this week. We know they are going to be physical. We just have to come harder.”

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  • Darrel E Burns Sr.

    Dan Tabari was right first game of the season. Just can’t give the kids their due. That’s all right basketball season is starting and respect for CPS can’t be denied. Three state titles for CPS last season.

  • Andre Newman

    Craig Elmore is a bad boy on offense and defense Go Wildcats. As former public player rooting for you guys!!

  • Craig S. Siller

    I agree he did knock them. But a large part is because these Suburban schools as well as private schools looked at CPS teams as teams that at the very best to stay with them for a quarter. But now those days are over with. Lemont is a very good team with a good coaching staff and they thought with the game plan they had, shut down the Run that they could shut down Phillips. They executed that part of the game plan and quite naturally they thought they had a chance. And I don’t blame them for thinking that. But as a proud alumni of Phillips High School I love the diversity that this offense brings. And I like the confidence that they have and the chip that they have on their shoulders. But most importantly I’m so proud of the fact that these are good kids very talented kids with a great coaching staff. And their moto of “No Excuses” , I love it. Go Wildcats!!

  • Darrel E Burns Sr.

    Coach Kook you did knock Phillips. You totally disrespected them. You didn’t win and couldn’t get it done because of the defense that you face. You said that your defense put you in position and that it was one that you felt that you could have got. But guess what the guys from Phillips felt the same way. We Public League Football alums are proud of Phillips and hope they win state again and maybe after they do they will get the respect that they deserve.

    • dan

      u guys didn’t play a healthy loyola team if u did u get smoke

      • Tabari Johnson

        It was the season opener, so you’re suggesting players were injured from summer practice!?!?
        ..nice try, Loyola was DOMINATED, let’s not forget the 2 Phillips touchdowns that came back due to a couple QUESTIONABLE flags..

      • Leallen

        No excuses that’s for losers you lost man up. Loyola know Phillips the best

      • shun beasley

        Sounds like sour grapes to me, y’all lost, Phillips suppose to feel sorry for y’all cause Loyola had sum key players injured. Man stop it. Its football you gotta play with who you got. Y’all still had a chance to win and didn’t get it done.

    • Tabari Johnson

      I totally agree with you!

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