Tony Phillips, Larenz Walters help Kankakee run past Nazareth

Tony Phillips broke off two long touchdown runs to help the Kays beat No. 5 Nazareth 33-26 in Kankakee.

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Kankakee’s Larenz Walters (2) turns upfield and outruns the Nazareth defense for a long touchdown in the first quarter.

Kankakee’s Larenz Walters (2) turns upfield and outruns the Nazareth defense for a long touchdown in the first quarter.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

There isn’t much doubt about Tony Phillips’ speed.

The Kankakee senior won four Class 1A state track titles as a sprinter at Bishop McNamara before transferring across town last year.

Still, Phillips’ full skill set may not have been on display in 2022, when he battled nagging injuries.

But it was on Friday, when he broke off two long touchdown runs and helped the Kays beat No. 5 Nazareth 33-26 in Kankakee.

Phillips broke off a 67-yard TD run on the Kays’ third play from scrimmage and had a 40-yarder late in the third quarter. He finished with 22 carries for 209 yards.

“I feel good, I feel 100% healthy,” said Phillips, who is one of the state’s top uncommitted seniors.

Phillips and quarterback Larenz Walters give the Kays two players with elite speed — for the record, Phillips said Walters is faster. The latter showed it, dashing 74 yards for a TD of his own on Kankakee’s second play from scrimmage.

And the Kays have yet another talented back as well: junior James Stampley Jr. He ran six times for 70 yards and two scores. His second score, from 14 yards, broke a 26-26 tie with 9:01 left in the game.

“We just executed, we played better, we’ve got more talent,” Phillips said.

That early 1-2 punch from the Kays put Nazareth in a 13-0 hole less than three minutes into the game. But the defending Class 5A champion Roadrunners steadied themselves and scrambled back to tie the score early in the fourth quarter.

Kankakee’s James Stampley (4) stiff arms a Nazareth defender.

Kankakee’s James Stampley (4) stiff arms a Nazareth defender.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Logan Malachuk, a junior in his third season as Nazareth’s starting quarterback, ran for three touchdowns and tested an inexperienced Kays secondary all night long. The Kays graduated two Division I cornerbacks after last season, sending Jyaire Hill to Michigan and Naz Hill to Wyoming.

Malachuk kept airing it out, finishing with 177 yards passing. That included a 50-yarder to 6-3, 230-pound Gabe Kaminski, one of the state’s top defensive prospects as an edge rusher.

But the Kays defensive backs, led by Tyrone Kennedy Jr., held Malachuk to 16 completions in 41 attempts and picked him off twice. Key’Andre White had one of the interceptions and Kennedy had the other, to end the Roadrunners’ final drive in the closing seconds.

“I was just thinking, ‘Don’t let ‘em score and that’s it,’” Kennedy said of his late interception.

All night, it was a matter of focus. “We [had] to stay locked in, stay with our man, no blown coverages, no plays off,” Kennedy said.

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