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Phillips propels Eagles back to title game

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

DAWSON -- Terrell Academy quarterback Cole Phillips hardly looked like he'd broken a sweat Friday night after 48 minutes in the GISA Class A semifinals.

Phillips scored three rushing touchdowns and threw for another to lead the Eagles to a 28-0 win against Briarwood, advancing Terrell (10-2) to the state title game where they will face Thomas Jefferson for the second year in a row. The Eagles, who beat the Jaguars, 61-26, in Louisville last year to win the ring, will host this time around.

"I'm liking this with them not scoring," Phillips said of the semifinal shutout. "It's a lot less pressure."

Phillips got the end zone celebrations and did actually take a few good hits -- "(Briarwood) can lay a lick," he said -- but it was the Eagles' defense that did most of the heavy lifting to give Terrell a shot at defending its state title.

The Eagles' secondary picked off Briarwood quarterback Blake Sowell four times on the night, an impressive feat considering the Buccaneers only threw the ball six times. Defensive backs Riley Davis, Caleb White, Hogan Skandamis and linebacker Levi Griffin all came away with picks, helping post the third shutout of the year.

"We got some athletes back there," said Terrell Academy head coach Bill Murdock, who will go for his fifth state title ring next week. "They fought for it because they all want to get that football."

Terrell turned three of the four interceptions into touchdowns, all capped off by Phillips. The senior quarterback scored on runs of 1, 3 and 5 yards and finished with 48 yards rushing and 132 yards passing on 13-of-18 attempts.

Skandamis set up one of the first-half scores with a 58-yard interception return to the Briarwood 25 and, after Phillips punched it in, Terrell led, 14-0, at halftime. Phillips' lone scoring strike went to Davis from 13 yards out in the fourth quarter to ice the game.

Davis, who was playing with a slight shoulder separation suffered last week, didn't show any signs of injury.

"He toughed it out, caught a touchdown, caught an interception and kicked all the extra points," Murdock said of Davis.

Briarwood, which rolled past Randolph Southern, 49-7, last week, drove inside the Eagles' redzone on its second possession but was stopped on fourth down when Colby Blackburn tripped up Matthew McElveen in the backfield.

The Buccaneers (8-4) never really threatened again, although McElveen, who ran for nearly 1,700 yards on the season, finished with 111 yards on 19 carries. Briarwood, which had grown accustomed to busting long runs all year, ran the ball 45 times and never had a run longer than 25 yards.

"All year, we'd get three or four (yards) and then get 20," Briarwood head coach John Osborne said. "We never could seem to get the corner. We just spit and sputtered all night and you can't do that against Terrell."

Added Murdock, "They had some big plays all year and our defense did a good job forcing them into passing situations and our secondary did a good job covering."

Terrell's Cole Byrd finished with 61 rushing yards on 12 carries. Caleb Nelson caught five passes for 53 yards. The Eagles have not lost a home game against a GISA Class A team since falling to Bethesday Day three seasons ago on Don Beard Field.