SIDELINE SCENE: Dr. Phillips football wins when it matters most
| 8:10 a.m. October 8, 2015
The simple math of a 35-game winning streak that entered Week Three of this current high-school football season is that no player on the roster of Dr. Phillips’ varsity football team had lost a regular-season game before this season.
The Panthers’ last regular-season loss was on Oct. 13, 2011 — when current seniors were in eighth grade.
It’s not unfair to suggest there should have been reason to worry about how Dr. Phillips and its players would respond to losing not one, not two, but three consecutive games this season. Sure, they were all to some of the best teams in the state, and two of them — last-second losses to West Orange and Apopka — could have easily gone the other way. The fact remains, though, that the Panthers lost those games, and the dejected reality of each loss was evident on the faces of every player afterward.
All of this begs the question of whether the Dr. Phillips team that arrived at Oak Ridge High for its district-opener against the then-undefeated Pioneers would have its trademark Dr. Phillips swag.
The Panthers answered that question with a dominating 34-7 win. Dr. Phillips pounded the Pioneers, and suddenly, a 3-3 record isn’t nearly as interesting as the 1-0 mark the Panthers have in their district. Of the six games in the ridiculous schedule they put together to start the fall, this was the one that mattered the most.
Coach Rodney Wells and his staff scheduled this year’s gauntlet because of the Panthers’ success in the regular season in recent years. It had gotten the program plenty of attention, but to this point, it had yet to yield a state title, so they decided to change things up and really challenge themselves.
The losing streak Dr. Phillips endured has given its coaching staff a chance to see how its team, with its heavy junior and underclassmen presence, would respond once its back was truly to the wall — and the Panthers came out swinging.
It’s never wise to read too much into one game. But as Dr. Phillips rests up on its well-earned bye week after a six-game slate to start the season that could rival any in the state, you have to kind of think that — unblemished record be darned — the Panthers are right where they need to be.
Dr. Phillips is couple of district wins away from punching a ticket to the state playoffs and onto yet another district championship. Then, after that, they really can demonstrate whether all this was worth it.
As Wells says, the goal was never to win 10 games in the regular season but rather to win five in the postseason. What we know so far is that, when it came time to play their biggest threat in their district, the Panthers won when it mattered the most.