Is No. 2 Phillips the most talented team in Public League history?

Phillips quarterback Leonard Smith practices on Monday. He'll make his debut Sunday on ESPN. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
Phillips quarterback Leonard Smith practices on Monday. He'll make his debut Sunday on ESPN. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
Aug. 21, 2018 5 a.m.

Leonard Smith was Hubbard’s quarterback last season. He played most of his games in front of a couple hundred people at Gately Stadium.

Things will be much different on Sunday. Smith, a senior who has transferred to Phillips, will make his debut as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback in a national television broadcast Sunday on ESPN. Phillips plays nationally-ranked Pickerington Central, Oh. at 11:30 a.m.

“Yeah, it’s just a bit different,” Smith joked. “It’s going to be a pretty big stage. But I’m ready for it.”

Smith is a total unknown, even in the city. But he’s surrounded by stars. Receiver Jahleel Billingsley is the area’s first Alabama recruit in decades.

“The [Alabama] thing hasn’t gone to my head, I’m staying humble,” Billingsley said. “I’m not into talking, I’ll just show what I’m about.”

Jahleel Billingsley catches a pass during practice Monday. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Jahleel Billingsley catches a pass during practice Monday. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Defensive back/receiver Fabian McCray and defensive back Joseph Thompson have both committed to Illinois.

“[The Illinois fans] really love me,” McCray said. “I get messages all the time from fans. It’s fun.”

Phillips coach Troy McAllister thinks sophomore defensive tackle Dominic Bass may wind up being the most highly-recruited football player in Public League history. The 6-4, 250 pound sophomore already has offers from Auburn, LSU, Florida, Ohio State Michigan and Michigan State.

Phillips receiver Fabian McCray, an Illinois recruit, turns the corner in practice. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Phillips receiver Fabian McCray, an Illinois recruit, turns the corner in practice. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Many recruiting analysts believe the Wildcats are the most talented Public League team ever. They will open the season ranked second in the preseason Super 25. But there isn’t a team from Illinois ranked in the national top 50 in by any outlet, so they have a lot to prove on Sunday.

“I think colleges are starting to recognize there is talent in every school [in the Public League],” McAllister said. “It is just finding it. There are diamonds in the rough and bonafide stars.”

The Wildcats petitioned the Illinois High School Association to move up to Class 6A this season. They won the Class 5A state title last year.

“As a program we felt the next step in our evolution was to move to 6A,” McAllister said. “Our ultimate goal is to become a national program and the only way to do that is to keep moving up and playing better competition.”

Phillips sophomore Dominic Bass is one of the most highly-regarded prospects in Public League history. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Phillips sophomore Dominic Bass is one of the most highly-regarded prospects in Public League history. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Phillips has won two state titles in the past three seasons. That level of success and dedication has been contagious.

“The expectations get raised each year and I’ve found the level of focus, even with the young guys, has raised along with that,” McAllister said. “They know if you want to play for the premier team in the Public League and maybe even the state, you have to come in focused even at a young age. That makes a big difference.”

The Wildcats are young on the offensive and defensive lines, but the players are very talented. McAllister says that junior Demerick Morris is going to be the best offensive lineman the school has ever had.

Young lines, a new quarterback, sky high expectations and a debut on ESPN. That’s a lot to deal with, but the attitude around Phillips couldn’t be better.

“Playing on ESPN against a national program is a huge opportunity for the Phillips community, the Public League and for Chicago,” Billingsley said. “We’ll show everyone what we can do.”

PHILLIPS SCHEDULE
Aug. 26 at Pickerington Central, Oh.
Sept. 1 at St. Louis Chaminade, Mo.
Sept. 8 vs. Simeon
Sept. 14 vs. Lincoln Park
Sept. 21 vs. Morgan Park
Sept. 28 at Curie
Oct. 6 at Lane
Oct. 12 vs. Westinghouse
Oct. 19 at Raby

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24 comments

  • Craig S. Siller

    You have to start somewhere. Yesterday was a learning experience for our kids, I’m trusting the process. Not that long ago they barely had enough players to field a team and look at them now. I think some people are having a hard time with a CPS school getting some love and trying to take their program national.

  • Ralphie

    Who knows how good Phillips is playing in 5A. 5A. What’s all this national talk. Please. The difference between 8A and 5A is huge. Maybe they are that good. It’s just unfortunate for everyone they aren’t playing the states best.

  • cclguy89

    they play a injury loyola team 9 times out of 10 there going to get smoke

  • cclguy89

    have fun beating up cps schools and down state teams but play team with better coaches and number ur going get beat 9/10

  • Purple Haze

    I think Phillips would do well against an equal division like DII or DIV team in Ohio. Good luck Phillips with the rest of your season.

  • Purple Haze

    Phillips leads early on…… You will see what PC does physically to a team like phillips. Right now. PC is obviously more physical. 4th quarter phillips will break. It’s PC’s way of wearing down an opponent. Just a higher level of football. I would not be surprised if phillips goes up by two touchdowns at some point. We will see.

  • Sammy

    Left out Milton Biggins, the Phillips tight end who played in the super bowl with Dallas.

  • Sammy

    The Wildcats have had some great ones, so it’s a stretch to say this team has the best athletes ever. Buddy Young, Mike Pruitt, Larry Murray, Roy Parker, Jeff Allen, Sank Phillips and Marty Murray were all americans who became NFL players or came very close. They were all 2-3 sport athletes.

  • Craig S. Siller

    Even if our student athletes lose tommorow the point is to take this program nationally. You get better by playing better teams. So surprised we are having this conversation but then again, I’m not lol. Go Wildcats, Go CPS

  • Purple Haze

    Illinois football v Ohio football……….please…… maybe if Phillips plays a mid level Ohio D3 team. Central will keep this game close only because it is their opener, and I am sure they will have a ton of penalties. Pick Central is way more aggressive. PC reloads every year. Since 2007 PC has been in the play offs. Ohio football is a different level. You will see.

    • Cornelius

      Clearly didn’t see St. Eds at Naper C last year.

    • Paul R Gulbransen

      Same thing would happen-to Phillips playing CALI teams!

      CALI used to play in the Kirk Herbstiet classic-for 4 yrs-NEVER LOST!!!(moeller-Trinity Xavier-etc.!!!!!!

  • cclguy89

    hahah have fun with a 4 or 5 year run when ur coach leaves u guys are done

  • Craig S. Siller

    I knew this was going to happen, as soon as CPS starts catching up and beating those Suburban and Catholic League schools the haters would start coming out. Lol it hilarious. Phillips keeps moving up in class, so they’ll play anybody. Start appreciating a quality program like we’ve done for years watching other schools.

  • cclguy89

    really no providence catholic in the rankings

  • Mark Farina

    I understand the game to be played at a Neutral Site (Much lLnger Ride for Phillips 🙂 in Westerville, Ohio at Otterbein University-Memorial Stadium.

  • cclalum89

    hahah u guys are getting kids who probably where not happy at catholic league schools lol

  • Dennis Mahoney

    Doesn’t take much in the way of guts to rank a Public League team this high considering the rest of the CPS competition is so weak. Phillips is almost guaranteed to go unbeaten if they win the opener. Check back at the end of the season and you’ll find that at least half of the top 25 teams ranked in the preseason will NOT be ranked at the end of the year.

    • Bigdaddy

      Simeon and Raby on the schedule are not cupcakes

    • lovecoaching

      You know, I have been hearing this about Phillips for the past few years and it is funny, they always seem to come out on top! The last time I checked in order to win state championships in Illinois in high school football, you have to beat Suburban High Schools, Catholic High Schools and some tough Public league teams. Phillips has beaten Suburban, Catholic, and Public league teams (like Al Raby in their conference who lost in the State Semifinals last year and will make a deep run again this year) consistently. In the immortal words of the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, it is time to give Phillips some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

    • Paul R Gulbransen

      EXACTLEY!

  • Barron Von Wildcat

    ANYBODY, ANYWHERE, CAN GET IT… We Are The Mighty WILDCATS 😎

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