Miami Central | davante phillips

Miami Central WR DaVante Phillips makes most of his chances

 

Rockets receiver DaVante Phillips knows Central’s offense is built around the run, so he has learned to be patient this season.

Friday’s playoff games

Region 4-8A semifinal at Traz: Columbus vs. Coral Gables, 1

Region 4-6A semifinal at Traz: Central vs. Northwestern, 7:30

Region 4-5A semifinal at North Miami: Jackson vs. Norland, 7:30

Region 4-4A final at Curtis: Gulliver vs. Booker T. Washington, 7:30

Region 4-2A final: Belle Glade Glades Day at Dade Christian, 7:30

Saturday’s playoff game

Region 4-8A semifinal at Harris: South Dade vs. Killian, 7:30


Special to The Miami Herald

In sports, as in life, there’s a general sense of order.

Young players are supposed to work their way through the ranks and rigors before they are even thought of as key cogs or “top dogs” in a team’s hierarchy.

But today’s microwave society has made players not only hungry for the spotlight but ready for it as well.

This much is true for Central sophomore receiver DaVante Phillips.

The 6-2, 195-pound receiver gives the Rockets an added dimension to their run-heavy offense — leading the team with 24 catches for 364 yards and four touchdowns — and could be a big factor in Friday’s rematch with longtime rival Northwestern in the Region 4-6A semifinals at Traz Powell Stadium.

The Rockets defeated the Bulls 35-17 in a Week 9 tilt at Sun Life Stadium.

Central coach Telly Lockette said Phillips’ performance in 2012 is only a sequel to what he did as a freshman last season.

“DaVante shocked us — and a lot of other people — with what he did last year,” Lockette said, speaking of Phillips’ first season of varsity football, when he caught eight touchdown passes. “He’s always been a hard-working kid with tremendous talent. What he’s been able to do for us this year has been big, and I think it’s validated all the work he’s put in and made him hungrier for more.”

As hungry as the 16-year-old might be, the Rockets know their bread and butter comes from the junior running back tandem of Joe “Novocaine” Yearby and “Fast” Dalvin Cook. The two premier backs have accounted for 2,057 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns through 10 games this season, including a 342-yard, five-touchdown combined effort five weeks ago in Central’s victory over district foe Carol City.

Lockette knows it can be frustrating for Phillips at times.

“Any top-notch wide receiver will get a little frustrated when the ball doesn’t come their way sometimes,” Lockette said. “But we do our best to keep DaVante in the game plan and make teams have to respect and defend his big-play ability.”

“He’s capable of breaking out and making that big [play] at any time,” Lockette added.

There might not have been a better time for Phillips to have one of those breakout moments than in Week 2, when he played a huge role in Central rallying to beat rival and nationally ranked Booker T. Washington 37-26.

Trailing by 16 points at the half, the Rockets moved Yearby to quarterback and Phillips caught the game-sealing touchdown late in the fourth quarter — a 21-yard catch that he outjumped and outbattled a Tornadoes defender for.

He finished that game with 75 yards on five catches, all from Yearby.

Phillips said seeing Yearby under center was a sight for sore eyes.

“In the first half I was doing my job, just blocking; but when coach Lockette moved Joe to quarterback I got [excited],” Phillips said. “Joe and I played Optimist together, and he was our team’s quarterback then. He knows what I can [do] out wide, he looks for me. We have a connection, he just gives me a look in the huddle and we go from there.”

Having big-play receivers is nothing new for Central though, and some of those recent stalwart pass catchers have come back to tutor Phillips.

“When Charles Gaines Jr. [Louisville] and Tommy Shuler [Marshall] come back, they come here and they work DaVante, show him how to run crisper routes, how to break down coverages, all the little things that they’ve learned and is giving them success,” Lockette said. “I’ve also showed him film of Tommy Streeter and Aldarius Johnson to teach him things. I think he’s got a bit of all of them in him.”

Whether it’s Yearby or quarterback Keith Reed, who has come on as of late, as the designated signal caller Friday, Phillips could play a major part in any success the Rockets have.

During the first matchup with the Bulls, Central trailed 11-0 and looked as though that deficit was going to grow as Northwestern was inside the Central 15-yard line.

But a fumble that Cook returned for a touchdown swung the momentum in the Rockets’ favor and eventually led to Central’s victory.

Yearby and Cook combined for just 90 rushing yards in the victory, but Phillips caught a touchdown pass and Tavious Brown Jr., who leads the Rockets in receiving yards with 416, also had a crucial catch.

“Its going to come down to wills,” Lockette said. “Because the rivalry is so intense, we just have to show our mental toughness and impose our will.”

That will might go through the passing game and Phillips — and he’s ready.

“I want to be the go-to guy,” Phillips said.

“I want to be the player that the coaches trust; I want to be the player that makes the big plays, to be that guy that other teams focus on but still makes the big plays for my team.”

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