Phillips has conquered Illinois football, can it become a national powerhouse?

Phillips head coach Troy McAllister gets drenched after winning the Class 5A state championship against Dunlap at Huskie Stadium, November 25, 2017 Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Phillips has become a state football powerhouse under coach Troy McAllister and things aren’t slowing down. The Wildcats seem to be headed for even bigger things (including Class 6A eventually) and it isn’t difficult to imagine them becoming a nationally prominent program sometime in the future.

The evidence is mounting. Phillips has a number of highly-recruited players. Jahleel Billingsley, Joseph Thompson and Fabian McCray highlight the class of 2019. But even bigger things are on the horizon.

Dominic Bass, a 6-4, 250-pound freshman, is a special talent.

“If Dominic takes care of business he will be the biggest recruit in Chicago Public League history,” McAllister said. “There are a lot of things that have to fall into place for that to happen. He’s a phenomenal player.”

That’s quite a statement from McAllister, but college coaches seem to agree. Bass, who started all season for the Wildcats on the defensive line, already has offers from Auburn, Florida, Illinois, Iowa State, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi, Purdue, Toledo and West Virginia.

“This is the earliest we have ever had a recruit get offers,” McAllister said. “It is difficult to know how to handle it because he’s a freshman, it is just going off potential. He will have a chance to go wherever he wants.”

In the past, a talent like Bass would have wound up at a Catholic League schools. The success of Phillips and the star power of McAllister has now made the Public League a legitimate option for elite players.

McAllister was recently one of two coaches (nationwide, in all high school sports) to win the 2018 Gatorade Coaching Excellence Award.

“It was surprising to say the least,” McAllister said. “I really look at it as a program award. It is great for CPS, our school and our community.

“The kids were really excited. Gatorade came in and did the awards and had a film crew, it was a really fun experience. As a coach it was refreshing to see the enjoyment the young men took in it.

McAllister will walk the red carpet at ESPN’s ESPY awards in Los Angeles in July.

“Hopefully I get a chance to meet some famous athletes and not be too starstruck,” McAllister said.

McAllister didn’t sound starstruck at all earlier this month on Rahm Emanuel’s podcast, “Chicago Stories.”

McAllister told his personal story and talked about the rise of Phillips as a football powerhouse. One exchange in particular probably hit home with a lot of the city’s athletes.

“Every young man and every young person wants to belong and part of what we’ve created is a place where everyone belongs,” McAllister told Emanuel. “For the kids who have more difficult home lives, they’ve got teammates they can count on and if they need a place to stay or they need some food or just whatever they need they can count on each other.

“We love each other and at the end of the day I’m not afraid to tell a young man that I love him and they’re not afraid to say it back because they understand what that word means. We’re not using that word lightly, but we’re saying it in a way of respect and care and to know that we’ve got each other and we’ll always be there.”

Phillips was expected to open the season at Loyola, a rematch of last season’s thrilling game at Gately, but that arrangement fell apart. Instead the Wildcats will travel to Ohio Week 1 and play Pickerington, which won a state title last season.

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27 comments

  • Cornelius

    I agree and disagree with the sentiments of this article. One, Phillips has not conquered Illinois football. The classes get better as you go up, they always have, so winning 4A and 5A doesn’t quite get them to the conquering level. That said they have become a state powerhouse worthy of playing anyone in the state and win or lose I think they compete.

    These people claiming Phillips ran from EIC or Rochester are engaging in silly season. It’s those schools running from competition. Rochester winning 7 of 8, how about you test yourselves and opt up? No one tells Loyola or Maine South that they should drop down to find competition in 4A because everyone knows it’s absurd to think the classes are better the smaller you get. I’m taking Phillips over those to small schools and I’m taking the shorthanded Loyola over them as well.

    Bottom line is if Phillips wants to conquer Illinois football they have to move all the way up. But I do find that sentiment interesting considering not many people said that about JCA and Providence when they were beating the small schools. Why not?

  • truthteller shotcaller

    Dominates Illinois High School Football??? How?? They ran from 3A and 4A, didn’t want to face the real Powerhouse in Rochester, Il (winner of 7 of the last 8 state championships) who they lost to by the way, to the much weaker 5A. Give me a break.

    • boilermaker1989

      plus they only won twice let see how well they do if they play top teams from the burbs and a healthy catholic league team lol

    • Pirate Sleeved Jersey

      Although Rochester did beat Phillips in finals in 2014-15, in 2015-16 Phillips won 4A beating Althoff Catholic 51-7. Althoff had squeaked by Rochester two weeks earlier in the qtrs by 4. This past season Phillips would have smoked Rochester had they met.

      • truthteller shotcaller

        They would never have smoked Rochester but that’s something we’ll never know because they were too scared to play them. Maybe it’s just me but I know for sure that if a team beat me it’s a definite that I would make sure I went back and finished that job before moving on. Leave no question in your quest. Just look at the comments already, they skipped the two classes that provided competition to play the weakest class in IHSA last season and EVERYONE knows it. Fyi, they were supposed to “smoke” Rochester 2 years ago as well and got their ads embarrassed on their own documentary!!

        • Pirate Sleeved Jersey

          Yes, they were so frightened of Rochester they opened the season last year w/ 8A Loyola. 4A was a joke last year, Raby made the qtrs and Rochester was not nearly as good as they’ve been in the past and barely squeaked past a two loss Morris team thanks to a Soph kicker. 5A w/ Lemont and Sterling was a far tougher bracket. In 2015-16 Phillips won 4A by crushing the team that eliminated Rochester two weeks prior. No need to stick around 4A after that except that they had a 3A enrollment. As for IC in 3A, they are a cute little school and they’ve recruited well, but even their 2016-17 Jordan Rowell state champ team didn’t have the team speed (aside from Rowell) they would have needed to complete w/ Phillips.

          • truthteller shotcaller

            Guess we’ll never know, I still think they’re scared. Now their legacy is in question by most because of it. But I guess now the precident has been set to just jump around in class until you find the matchup you want or that favors you. I think IC and Rochester could have beat them.

    • William L.Anderson

      Stop hating on Chicago Public League.Phillips is doing a great Job..These kids live in a tough environment and still manage to Win State…Go cry me a River some place else..

  • Dusten

    Wins a 4A and 5a championship and they conquered Illinois football?

  • Craig S. Siller

    This is absolutely awesome!!! CPS schools were always on the outside looking in when it came to football. The days of just hoping we could at least score a touchdown in a playoff game where the CPS school would get blasted are over with. And baseball is next. So proud of our young men and women who are trying to reach their potential. And all of the people it takes help make it happen. And don’t worry about that success factor, they’ll be moving up again soon enough.

  • Lavar Ball

    Oy, now we have MO’B trying to pump up CPS football teams as ‘national powers’. It’s bad enough that we have to listen to it for basketball…

    • William Anderson

      So its the Chicago kids fault,suburban white kids cant Ball in Basketball against the talented Chicago public league..Get over it Stupid

  • Paul

    Nice story even though their playing against inferior talent come state playoff time. Should be playing in 6A. Why is it Catholic Schools get penalized for success factor by the IHSA but teams like Phillips,Morgan Park or Orr do not. Strange

    • chris

      Relax Paul…private schools can much more easily recruit…we have kids from NW Indiana at Chicago Catholic Schools…so just enjoy Phillips success without fake guilt.

  • Ralphie

    Phillips conquered Illinois football. Really? Compared to the historic powers in 8A and 7A like Mr. Carmel, Maine South, GlenbardWest? A 5A school? I don’t think so. And for how long have they dominated even 5A? Come on man

    • bmax

      Just so you know. Phillips moved up to 5A from 4A. And they will be moving up again, and they don’t have to. Phillips was the best team in Illinois last yr regardless of class.

      • boilermaker1989

        false they where not best team in illinois they play some crap team

      • truthteller shotcaller

        Wrong, they were 3A and knew they’d have to beat IC Catholic so they wanted to skip 3A, 4A meant Rochester the reigning champions X6 and knew they couldn’t win there so they took the easy picking 5A..they’re a fraud!

      • truthteller shotcaller

        Can’t be crowned the King until you dethrone the reigning King!

        • Pirate Sleeved Jersey

          Might be true in individual sports like boxing, golf & tennis, but not so much in team sports like football and hoops, especially in HS and college w/ guaranteed turnover. Besides, your logic has a basic flaw, moving up in class and playing “larger” schools in a sport like football is hardly taking the easy route.

          Did the 2016 Cubs beat the Mets in the NLCS or Royals in the WS?

          Did the 85 Bears beat the Dolphins in Super Bowl XX?

          Did that make them frauds?

    • boilermaker1989

      even providence catholic

  • boilermaker1989

    dude recruits kids which is illegal

  • Black

    Really good to read such a positive article. We need more of them. I love hearing the success stories. Given the opportunity, success will come. Doesn’t matter if it’s in education, sports, business. Proud of each and every person who has made a positive impact on those young brothers lives.

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