THOMASVILLE -- Cairo's Fabian Cooper, Thomas County Central's Phillip Prather and Thomasville's A.D. Phillips all rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season. Having three 1,000 yards rushers leading the way for their prospective teams made choosing the 2004 Times-Enterprise Offensive Player of the Year like the 2004 presidential election. It was too close to call, and it nearly came down to a vote from Ohio.

But when it was all said and done, Thomasville's Phillips was the player elected to carry the top offensive honors in the Times-Enterprise's coverage area.

"Our area was blessed with good running backs," Cairo head coach Tom Fallaw said.

All three running backs put up similar statistics, but Phillips consistency throughout the regular season was the difference. After being held in check in the season opener against Cairo, Phillips responded by rushing for more than 100 yards for six straight weeks. Thomasville went 6-0 in that span and the offense averaged nearly 36 points.

Cook held Phillips to 22 yards in week eight, but the Bulldogs won 17-14 and captured their third consecutive region title. He bounced back the next week with 156 yards against Mitchell-Baker and was on pace for another 100-yard game against Swainsboro in the playoffs but the Bulldogs fell behind and were forced to pass for most of the second half. He finished with 84 yards and a touchdown.

On the season, Phillips finished with 1,197 yards and 14 touchdowns in 10 games, all in his first full season at the varsity level. In 2003, he backed up Ricky Walker and Martin Moore. Walker and Moore combined to rush for 1,612 yards and Phillips was limited to only 16 carries.

"We were excited the way he played this year," Thomasville head coach Tommy Welch said. "I thought he definitely played well and the guys up front opened some holes for him."

Phillips did benefit from having an experienced offensive line in front of him, but he also proved once he was in the open field he was one of the hardest players to bring down. At 165 pounds, he is shifty in the open field but unafraid to put his head down and grind out tough yards between the tackles.

"The number one thing about him is he is tough," Welch said.

Welch is also pleased Phillips will return next year for his senior season. He expects Phillips to work to get stronger this offseason and to have an even better as a senior.

"Adding some more muscle will help him," Welch said. "He took a lot of shots this year."

Although Cooper and Prather each have a case for offensive player of the year, Welch believes the right decision was made.

"All three of them are very good running backs," Welch said. "But I'm a fan of ours."

Trending Video

Recommended for you