It was impossible to watch Phillips senior Jahleel Billingsley on Saturday against Lake Forest and not think of Loyola’s Jake Marwede, the 2016 Sun-Times Player of the Year.
Marwede was a large, powerful, fast tight end who regularly lined up at quarterback in the wildcat formation in goal-line situations and occasionally for entire drives. That is exactly how Phillips coach Troy McAllister used Billingsley in the Wildcats’ 30-24 victory against the Scouts in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
‘‘That’s the mantra for everybody on the team,’’ Billingsley said. ‘‘You just play when you’re needed and step up and make big-time plays during big games.’’
Billingsley, an Alabama recruit, had 15 carries for 152 yards and three touchdowns. He scored the game-winner with 35 seconds left.
Phillips’ offense certainly isn’t operating like a finely tuned machine, but it was able to get the yards and points necessary to win. Billingsley and receiver Fabian McCray, an Illinois recruit, stepped up in every key moment on offense and defense.
Phillips, the Class 5A champion last season, will host Prairie Ridge, the defending Class 6A champion, Saturday at Gately in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Leonard Smith, the Wildcats’ starting quarterback, has been out with an injury since Week 5. Junior Terryon Thrower has helped Phillips win seven consecutive games, but Smith recently was cleared to play.
‘‘That experience for Terryon is great,’’ McAllister said. ‘‘Each moment that he’s out there, every snap that he takes, it kind of goes in the memory bank. You learn from it.’’
McAllister hinted Smith might start against Prairie Ridge, depending on how practice goes.
‘‘We’ll see,’’ he said.
Richards’ stellar runner
Junior running back Leshon Williams turned in a dominant performance in Richards’ 49-0 rout of Rock Island in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs Friday.
Williams needed only 13 carries to rush for 259 yards and three touchdowns. The Bulldogs will host Yorkville in the second round.
Public League progress?
Public League teams went 5-18 in the first round of the state playoffs. Brooks beat Hyde Park in the only game featuring two Public League teams. The Eagles will play Sterling in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Taft, Lincoln Park, Von Steuben, Kenwood, Payton, Back of the Yards, Phoenix, Amundsen, Raby, Sullivan, Ag Science, Clemente, Dunbar, Clark, UP-Englewood, Harlan and Collins also lost.
Many of those teams were playing in the state playoffs for the first time or were playing in their first playoff game in several years, so there was plenty to be gained even from a loss.
Simeon (Class 7A) and Phillips won, as expected. UP-Bronzeville and Orr were surprise winners.
Orr beat LeRoy 42-6 in Class 1A behind strong performances from quarterback Maqael Henderson (four touchdowns) and James Mason. The Spartans will travel to face Lena-Winslow, the favorite to win the Class 1A title, in the second round.
UP-Bronzeville defeated St. Edward 24-14. Junior Gevalier Bolton had two sacks for the Lions, who limited the Green Wave to 32 rushing yards. UP-Bronzeville will host Marengo in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Contributing: Madeline Kenney
More High School Sports stories from the Sun-Times:
- Alabama recruit Jahleel Billingsley carries Phillips past Lake Forest
- Weird haircuts and a long drive but Loyola dominates Minooka
- VIDEO: Mount Carmel shuts out TF South
- Bryce Logan’s three touchdowns lead Waubonsie Valley past Bolingbrook
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