Wendell Phillips football team celebrates state championship

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Phillips Academy football coach Troy McAllister, along with Terrance Taylor, Quinghon Stewart and Xavier Hanks, celebrate the team’s Class 5A football championship in Chicago on Tuesday Nov. 28, 2017. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

The Wendell Phillips Academy High School football team can add the words “I did” to this season’s team motto: “I can, I will, I must.”

On Nov. 25, the Wildcats defeated Dunlap High School 33-7 in the state championship at Huskie Stadium, taking home the IHSA Class 5A title.

The student body was a sea of blue in the auditorium on Tuesday, gathering to celebrate the team in matching T-shirts that read “Chicago’s Champions” across the back. This is the team’s second state championship in three years, but the Tuesday celebration honored more than success on the field.

“While we’re celebrating sportsmanship we also celebrate the scholarship that’s going on here at Phillips,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “These kids are champions on the field and off the field.”

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) , Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool attended the Class 5A football championship ceremony at Phillips Academy in Chicago on Tuesday Nov. 28, 2017. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) , Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool attended the Class 5A football championship ceremony at Phillips Academy in Chicago on Tuesday Nov. 28, 2017. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Phillips Principal Matthew Sullivan said that 100 percent of Phillips seniors are accepted to college, and students last year received more than $11 million in scholarships. Sullivan challenged the students to earn $13 million in scholarships this year, and said the school has brought in $2.6 million so far.

“The legacy we want to leave behind is good grades, good football, better students,” said Craig Elmore, running back and middle linebacker.

Elmore, who played in the 2015 championship game as a sophomore and now holds two championship titles, said this was the perfect way to end his high school football career.

“For your last high school win to play on the big field like that and bring the trophy back to Chicago, it’s the right way to go out,” he said.

For fellow senior Phylicia Rich, captain of the drumline majorettes, the win was a way to show what Phillips has to offer.

“A lot of people say bad stuff about this school, but we have a lot of great stuff going on here and we have an amazing football team,” she said. “It was a great feeling to know that they won and we get to represent Chicago.”

Phillips Academy’s Terrance Taylor (42), J’Bore Gibbs (2), Craig Elmore (1), Anthony Davis (11) and Imori Heard (50) stand with their Class 5A football championship trophy in Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Phillips Academy’s Terrance Taylor (42), J’Bore Gibbs (2), Craig Elmore (1), Anthony Davis (11) and Imori Heard (50) stand with their Class 5A football championship trophy in Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Imori Heard, offensive tackle, said it was a “humbling” experience to win the title for Chicago, especially as a school from the city’s South Side. Heard said the team was motivated to prove that they could do what many thought they couldn’t.

Head coach Troy McAllister said he hopes the win will help take down myths that public league sports can’t beat suburban schools and private schools.

“We beat whoever shows up in front of us,” McAllister said.

For Anthony Davis, the game was a way to honor a good friend who was lost to gun violence earlier this year. Phillips student Trevail Ridgell was killed on Oct. 14, at age 17, by a gunshot to the head while sitting in a parked van on the South Side. Davis wrote his name on his football cleats.

Phillips Academy football players see their Class 5A football championship photo in Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Phillips Academy football players see their Class 5A football championship photo in Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

According to Davis, Ridgell would come to every game to cheer him on, and he felt his absence in the stands after his death.

“It pushed me harder because he wasn’t there,” Davis said.

Team members said they hope that having a championship team on the South Side might give inspiration to teens involved in gangs or other forms of street violence.

Quarterback J’Bore Gibbs said he hopes teens can look up to the team as a positive brotherhood.

“We don’t fight, we don’t kill each other. We’re brothers,” Gibbs said. “Brothers on the street can feel that same way and maybe want to change their lives.”

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

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

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