Phillips (8-2) needed its star player to step up in a Class 6A playoff opener against Lake Forest (5-5) over the weekend, and that’s precisely what Jahleel Billingsley did to lead the Wildcats to a 30-24 victory. With a dominant effort as a rusher from the Wildcat formation in addition to his usual impact on the defensive end, Billingsley looked the part of an Alabama recruit to earn the Sun-Times’ Player of the Week honors.
Billingsley beat out Montini’s Nick Fedanzo, who put up 164 rushing yards and three TDs against Woodstock North, and Warren’s Martin Walker, who ran for 174 yards in a win over Neuqua Valley.
“It’d be hard for us to find a better football player in the state than Jahleel,” Phillips coach Troy McAllister said after the game. “He’s been big-time all year and he was big-time today in crunch time.”
- Phillips’ Jahleel Billingsley (9) heads straight for the end zone. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
- Phillips’ Jahleel Billingsley (9) and Fabian McCray (7) celebrate after a touchdown. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
- Phillips’ Jahleel Billingsley (9) dives into the end zone. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
- Phillips’ Jahleel Billings (9) pulls away from the defense. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
Billingsley, a 6-foot-4 speedster who projects as a tight end at the college level, stepped up with the offense in need of a push Saturday. He carried the ball 15 times for 152 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score. With quarterback Terryon Thrower, starting in place of injured passer Leonard Smith, struggling through the air with three interceptions, it was up to Billingsley to save the day for the defending 5A state champions.
“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 time games.”
Between Billingsley and Fabian McCray, an Illinois recruit, Phillips has a pair of weapons that have carried the offense despite the lack of consistency at quarterback.
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