4 Questions with Starr’s Mill head coach Chad Phillips

Today’s interviewee is Starr’s Mill coach Chad Phillips, whose team defeated LaGrange 25-24 in overtime Friday in a game between top-10 teams in Class 4A. It was also the Region 4 opener for both. Starr’s Mill, ranked No. 5, will play No. 4 Troup at home Friday. Phillips is in his 13th season as head coach at Starr’s Mill. He began working at the Fayette County school in 1997.

1. How did the LaGrange game unfold, and what was the key to winning it? “We played a very tough team at Callaway Stadium. We played well in the first half, jumping out to a 10-3 lead at the break. The third quarter was a character check. We created quite a mess. LaGrange started with a big pass play, and two consecutive 15-yard penalties gave them great field position. They threw a pretty fade route for a score to tie the game. We inadvertently touched our knee to the ground while punting it away on our next series. They turned the mistake into points. The subsequent kickoff, we fair caught the kick on our own 1-yard line. We finally got things settled down and put a drive together after a disastrous quarter. A late goal-line stand put us in position to tie the game. Logan Inagawa hit Bo Walker on a 56-yard TD pass to send the game to OT. LaGrange scored first, but we answered and decided to go for two. Andersen Cardoza scored on the buck sweep to end the game. It was a tremendous high school football game. The key was relentless effort. Our kids were knocked down, but they never gave in and found a way to win it in the end.”

2. What do you make of the region you’re in, with five teams [Starr’s Mill, LaGrange, Troup, Whitewater, Trinity Christian] that have been ranked at some point this season? “We feel like we are in the SEC West. The players are extremely talented, and all the teams are very well-coached. Seven of the eight were playoff teams from a year ago. Each and every week will be a massive challenge for us. We hope to battle ourselves into one of the four playoff spots. Our region will be well represented in the state playoffs.”

3. What’s the biggest challenge you’ll face with Troup this week? “Troup has some special players. Taeo Todd, Tray Blackmon, Qua Moss, Qua Birdsong and Noah Dixon are all big recruits. Their team speed will give us some problems. They spread the field and get the ball to all of their playmakers. We will have to play great defense to keep it close.”

4. You’ve been at Starr’s Mill for a quarter of a century now. What explains your longevity at one school? “I have been here 26 years now. Starr’s Mill is unique in that we were able to build the program from scratch. Coach Mike Earwood hired a great staff and quickly established a high standard and developed a great culture. We have been very fortunate to have strong school administrative and booster support. Our players are still willing to invest the necessary time, and we have an incredible coaching staff that is passionate about the game and the values it teaches. This place has to be one of the better jobs in the state. We are happy here.” [Phillips was on Earwood’s Cartersville staff from 1990 to 1996, which includes the 1991 state-championship team. Earwood hired Phillips on his first Starr’s Mill staff in 1997.]

Produced by Georgia High School Football Daily, a free e-mail newsletter. To join the mailing list, click here.