Just win the day.
That’s the mentality with which the Dr. Phillips High School football team has been entering the football field on Friday nights this season, and a 4-2 record shows it is working.
“It’s been a good year,” senior middle and outside linebacker Jerard Smith, 18, said. “We all are just locked in. Last year, we didn’t have a lot of leadership, but this year, we got a lot more leadership, and everybody has the eyes on the prize right now.”
Smith has been playing at the varsity level with the Panthers since his sophomore year. He attributes this year’s success to players’ ability to respond positively to constructive criticism from both coaches and teammates.
“Everyone is on the same page,” he said. “We’ve got dudes (who) are 15 and 16 telling dudes (who) are 17 and 18 what to do. It’s not really an age thing, but (this year), the younger dudes can say something to the older dudes, and we all listen, so we all are taking criticism from everyone. We are open to hearing them and that’s what’s making us better.”
Dr. Phillips has gone through some reshaping of its offense and defense during the last two seasons. Last year, the Panthers had a young defense, and this year, they are playing with a younger offense. So, what’s making the offense effective? The players’ understanding that everyone plays a part in the success of the team.
“Our offense is very young, so that comes with immaturity, sometimes,” junior quarterback Stanley Anderson-Lofton, 16, said. “So the only challenge we have is not being as focused or as locked in as we should be on certain plays — and continue to stay locked in during the course of the game. It’s just understanding what every play is designed to do and what (we) are supposed to get from each play … (and) understanding that at the end of the day, it’s the players on the field and not necessarily the coaches. So sometimes, we have to take things into our own hands to really connect on what we need to do as an offense.”
For Dr. Phillips, the mental aspect of the game is just as important as the physicality of its players.
“I think the hardest thing (to grasp as a player) is not necessarily the physical standpoint of the game but the mental standpoint of it,” Anderson-Lofton said. “Having to absorb all the information that everybody needs to succeed besides just myself — that can be hard at times. But when you really focus, it just comes naturally during the game.”
“It’s (important) to make sure everybody understands the play and goes the extra mile to make sure we are listening,” Smith said. “It’s taking advantage of the mental days and taking advantage of the physical days as well.”
DP VS. OLYMPIA
Come Friday night, Dr. Phillips is hosting Olympia, and just like other local rivalries, the Panthers are excited to meet the Titans on the gridiron.
“This game means a lot to both schools and both teams,” Anderson-Lofton said. “So, I have to understand that this game is going to be more than just football. There’s going to be high tensions; there’s going to be high emotions. So I have to make sure my team stays level-headed throughout it knowing that somebody is going to do something to try to make us get a flag or a personal foul. But, we have to understand that, at the end of the day, we are here to win. We are not here to entertain what the other team has going on.”
Last year, Dr. Phillips lost to Olympia 11-0, so high expectations are brewing prior to Friday night as the Panthers are eager to take the win.
“When you play on the varsity level and you see both of the stands packed out, it just hits differently,” Smith said. “Emotions are going to be all over the place.”