Senior uses size to his and the Spiders' advantage

Denzel Phillips stands at only 5-foot-7 and weighs 170 pounds, which is small by almost all standards in high school football.

But what the Concord senior tailback may lack in size, he has made up for with determination and relentless work ethic. That got the senior the Spiders' starting job.

Phillips looks at his small stature as a strength.

"I have always used my size to my advantage, because a lot of people can't see me among all the big linemen," said Phillips. "If they miss me for a second, I am usually quick and fast enough to get by them before they ever really see me."

Most opponents weren't aware of Phillips for the past few years, because he didn't play a lot for a deep Concord backfield that featured now-graduated Varen Blake and Dominique Posey.

But when 18 of 22 starters graduated last year from coach Glen Padgett's nine-win football team, there were a lot of opportunities for players to step up.

Phillips was one of the role players who saw the opportunity and took full advantage of it.

Phillips, who rushed for 306 yards and three touchdowns in 2010, said Padgett and new Concord running backs coach Barry Lipton have had big roles in helping him become a better player.

"Denzel had a great summer. He was at every workout and worked really hard on improving all aspects of his game," said Padgett. "All of the success he is having now is a direct result of all the hard work he put in in the offseason."

Phillips had a career-best 468 yards and four touchdowns in the Spiders' first four games this year.

In only his second career start, against East Rowan last month, he exploded for 236 yards and three touchdowns on only 13 carries to help lead Concord to a 58-0 win.

Heading into the Sept. 16 South Piedmont Conference opener against Northwest Cabarrus, Phillips has had no fewer than 67 yards in a game.

Phillips has also played a part in the potent Concord passing game, led by All-SPC quarterback B.J. Beecher. Phillips had nine catches for 136 yards in his first four games.

Padgett said he's been impressed by Phillips' versatility.

"We knew that Denzel could be a great runner, because he has excellent balance and vision and good speed," said Padgett.

"But now, you can tell Denzel takes a lot of pride in the little things that he does, like blitz pickups, and he has also become a better receiver and a more complete player."

While Beecher leads an established passing attack with the help of tight end Terrance Knox and wideouts Alex Asbury (210 receiving yards, five touchdowns), Bravone Howard (227 yards, one touchdown) and Jon Neal (138 yards, one touchdown), Phillips is looking to balance the offense on the ground.

"Having a great quarterback, like Beecher, and a lot of good receivers just helps me even more," he said.

"By the end of the year, I want people to know about our running game and about me. I want to prove to everybody that I can be a great player."

Phillips has proved himself early, but he is eager to do so against conference opponents and especially against archrival A.L. Brown.

Phillips said his main goal right now is to help Concord win the conference title and get to the playoffs.

If the Spiders are going to do that, they will need a big effort from Phillips and rest of the team.

"This is my senior year, so it is my last shot," Phillips said. "I plan making the most of every opportunity I get."