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O’Brien: Phillips wins the Public League’s first football state title

The Public League finally climbed the mountain Friday at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb. Phillips beat Belleville Althoff 51-7 to win the Class 4A state title.

It took 42 seasons for the Chicago Public League to win a football state title. The reasons are many and varied, but most come down to finances: facilities, coaches and equipment. The draw of powerhouse private school programs like Mount Carmel and St. Rita is also a factor.

“When we go to practice we go with footballs, that’s it,” Phillips coach Troy McAllister said. “There are no sleds, no chutes. There’s no kicking nets, nothing like that. It just shows what our coaches have done and what these young men do. We have five coaches and anywhere else it is 10-14. That makes a huge difference. These young men bought in to what we were trying to accomplish and today they achieved a goal that has never been done before.”

As usual, quarterback Quayvon Skanes was the offensive hero for the Wildcats. The senior rushed 13 times for 149 yards and four touchdowns. The touchdown runs were explosive: 41 yards, 31 yards, three and 36 yards.

The 41-yarder, the first, was probably the most important. The Wildcats (14-0) trailed 7-0 at the time.

“I knew I had to make a big play for the team, to set the momentum,” Skanes said.

Phillips dominated from that point on. The Wildcats’ defensive line, the strength of the team, totally shut down Belleville Althoff’s attack. The Crusaders (13-1) finished with just 23 rushing yards.

“(Belleville Althoff quarterback Jordan Augustine) every couple plays he would be like ‘geez, somebody stick him,’” said Phillips defensive lineman Amir Watts.

Watts had seven tackles (5.5 for a loss) and three sacks. Xavier Nash had a sack, Malcolm Fox recovered a fumble and had a sack. Chris Elmore, the heart and soul of the line, added a sack.

Junior running back Kamari Mosby kept the chains moving. He was a workhorse, running 29 times for 163 yards and a touchdown.

Phillips lost in the title game last year.

“Last year there was a whole lot of hype and it got to us, the pressure,” McAllister said. “We kind of folded. This year was a much different mentality.”

Fox summed up what the win meant to the team, the Public League and the city: “Everything.”

Five star players were brought in to the post-game press conference. Four of them (and dozens of other Phillips players) played together in a youth football program called the Little Wildcats. The success of that program, along with McAllister, is what led to the Public League finally winning a title.

The Little Wildcats program was the victim of cuts to CPS funding last year.

“It’s like, now what?” Elmore said. “We have a group of young kids that were playing there that looked up to us. Now where do they play football? Where is the place for them? Why did they take it away? Everyone saw how starting that program has elevated our game.”

Mickey Pruitt, the director of football for the Public League, said Friday he’s hoping to find a way to help the Little Wildcats football program start up again.

Hopefully that happens. If not, it could be a long wait for another Public League football state championship.