Phillips shines as La Habra spoils Colony homecoming
By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal
Sophomore cornerback Clark Phillips III returned three interceptions for touchdowns to key La Habra’s 49-14 blowout victory over Colony High School in Ontario Friday night.
“I ate a lot [for breakfast] today, eggs, bacon, grits, sausage and I just prayed for a good game,” Phillips said, when asked how he prepared for his breakout game. “I just want to thank god for this awesome opportunity and the coaches for giving me the opportunity.”
Phillips also feasted on fellow sophomore, quarterback Marco Gonzalez, who entered the game midway through the Titans opening drive after starter Joseph Tesimale left with an apparent knee injury.
After Gonzalez lead the Titans the rest of the way down the field and inched over the goal line on 4th down to take an early lead, the Titan offense appeared to not skip a beat.
But Phillips intercepted Gonzalez on the Titans next possession and returned it 38 yards down the sideline to tie the game at 7-7 midway through the first quarter.
After the Highlanders took a narrow 21-14 lead into halftime, Phillips spurred a 28-point third quarter surge with two more interception returns.
Quarterback Zack Fogel lead the Highlanders down the field on the opening drive of the half connecting with Deavyn Woullard, who made a diving catch in the back of the end zone for a 45-yard score– the first of their two touchdowns in the quarter.
Phillips followed with his most miraculous play of the night, leaping up to grab an Gonzalez’s overthrown pass with one hand and streaking down the sideline 42 yards for the score to make it 35-14 just three minutes into the third quarter.
Phillips said afterwards that his ball skills and return ability come from playing offense his whole life. He has only been playing cornerback since coming to high school. Prior to that, he had always played running back.
Head coach Frank Mazzotta has taken notice, finding ways to get Phillips increasingly involved on the offensive side of the ball as the season goes on as well.
After Fogel found Woullard again for a 17-yard touchdown, Phillips pulled a pick-six hat-trick with a 60-yard touchdown, again streaking down the La Habra sideline–this time waving bye as he accelerated past the Titans 6’5” wide receiver Michael Ezeike.
Fogel’s night was far more impressive than his modest 92 yards and two touchdowns suggest.
The senior quarterback was accurate all night, but the Highlander receivers had a case of the drops early on, including three in a row that stalled the opening drive of the game.
“I’m telling you right now, [Fogel] has struggled throwing the ball in the past,” Mazzotta said. “But Zack has gotten a lot better and you saw that tonight, this is a culmination of 18 games starting now and the ball is in the right places, he threw it with some velocity and hit people in the hands–that’s what I’m most happy about honestly.”
“Obviously the time helps, experience makes everyone better especially at the quarterback position,” Fogel said. “The coaching is just superb, we watch a lot of film and honestly you don’t want to be your best week-one, we want to be our best in the playoffs, so we’re just trying to get closer to that each week.”
Skyler Taylor kept his scoring streak intact, leaping over the pile for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Despite giving way to other running backs for much of the second half in each of the Highlanders three lopsided victories, Taylor impressively has 11 rushing touchdowns and at least one in each game this season.
The loss drops Colony to 3-2 this season. The Titans struggled without Tesimale and the extent of his injury is unknown. Head coach Steve Randall said he will know more on Monday or Tuesday.
Perhaps the most shocking stat line was the penalty disparity between the two teams. Colony finished the game without an official penalty enforced against them. They were called for holding in the third quarter, however it came on the heels of Gonzalez being sacked, so the penalty was declined by La Habra.
While it’s unclear how long he will be sidelined, fortunately Randall will have two weeks to either get his quarterback healthy or prepare for their first league game against Chaffey without him since the Titans have a bye week coming up.
La Habra improved its record to 3-2 heading into league play. Their two losses came against Upland, the top team in CIF Division 2, and Mission Viejo, the No. 2 team in Division 1.
The Highlanders open league against a much improved Sunny Hills (4-0) at Buena Park High School Oct. 6. The Lancers feature one of the top rushers in Orange County, Alex Jung.