Three Sullivan South defenders converge on Johnson County's Tyler Leonard during their Mountain Lakes contest at Death Valley Friday night. John Arrowood photo.
KINGSPORT — One player has given Sullivan South’s football fans a spirit like they’ve never seen before.
Quarterback Curt Phillips is in a fantasy league of his own. Just ask the Johnson County Longhorns.
Phillips enjoyed his finest hour Friday night, spearheading a 42-13 Mountain Lakes Conference win over the Longhorns.
If his passing performance wasn’t enough, he ran for almost as many yards to set a school record.
In short, Phillips was phenomenal. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 209 yards and rushed 12 times for 201 yards from the Rebels’ explosive shotgun formation.
He scored three touchdowns. Two of his runs — a 96-yarder and a 28-yarder — were things of beauty.
The upset by Greeneville last week forced even Phillips to refocus.
“We challenged him to play up to his ability,’’ Rebels coach Stacy Carter said, “and he did. I think that was a pretty good night for him. It was a heck of an offensive game.
“To be able to run and throw like that was encouraging after the game against Greeneville in which we never got in a rhythm.’’
Phillips personally accounted for 410 yards. The Rebels rolled up a total offense of 549 yards. Both of these eclipsed school records.
Phillips opened the scoring with his 28-yard run, swerving around would-be tacklers and accelerating after each cut.
“Our coaches have been working with us on running downhill,’’ he said.
The play of the night, which made homecoming ever more festive, was Phillips’ 96-yard dash straight up the field. He left two defenders groping at the line of scrimmage and outran two others to the goal line.
“I was standing back in the end zone and really just trying to get out of there,’’ Phillips said. “Things opened up.’’
The jaunt erased the 91-yarder by 1998 QB Josh Haney as the longest run in South history.
Phillips also was crowned homecoming king at halftime. Unable to switch attire in such a brief time, he had his father, Jim, stand in for him as an escort in the homecoming court. Beth Miller was crowned queen.
Johnson County coach Mike Atwood made no bones about it.
“Phillips beat us,’’ Atwood said. “He’s as good a player as you’ll see in this part of the country. We couldn’t tackle him.
“We’d rather he throw as run at us. We tried to make him pass. We couldn’t do much with him and South just jumped on us.’’
Prep Star magazine rated Phillips the top quarterback in Tennessee and the second best in the Southeast.
In 2Â½ seasons, he has accumulated 6,185 total yards — 3,883 passing and 2,302 rushing.
South’s running backs, Taylor Fletcher and Brad Shanks, were so effective at squirting through holes and making deceptive fakes, it opened up the field for the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Phillips to romp.
“Everything started with the line,’’ Fletcher said. “T.J. Blanken, George Harless, Hunter Beddle, Stephen Hopkins and Jonathan Thomas blocked extremely well.
“We gave them a lot to eat before the game to make sure they didn’t get hungry.’’
Shanks concurred with his running mate. “The line opened big holes and we just stepped it up. After a hard week of practice, the game plan came together.’’
Phillips said the nature of the win was pivotal.
“It was real big for us,’’ he said. “We had to come back and prove ourselves after last week’s game. I think our linemen took it personally. Harless threw some ridiculous pancake blocks.’’
Receivers Houston Martin and Kaleb Kitzmiller had the same zip code as Phillips.
“Coach (Mark) Wooten does a good job with them,’’ Phillips said. “When they’re covered, they come back to the ball and it’s easier for me to get it to them.’’
Defensive back Charlie Columbo delivered some awesome hits on Johnson County’s pass receivers.
However, the Rebels didn’t knock any shine off tailback Tyler Leonard, who gained 128 yards on 22 carries, and wide receiver/kicker Christian Prudhomme.