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Like an ace in his back pocket, the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl was there for Christian Phaby throughout a senior season full of twists and turns for the Hunt High defensive lineman.
Phaby, who missed five games after suffering a hairline in his femur against New Bern on Sept. 8, returned in time for the Warriors’ game against archrival on Nov. 1. However, a postgame fight between players on both teams (not including Phaby) resulting in the cancellation of Hunt’s last remaining regular-season game and a potential state playoff game.
Thus, the 6-foot-1, 270-pound defensive tackle knew the elite postseason all-star game, played Saturday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida — home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — would be his last chance to shine. And shine he did as Phaby made a key tackle during a goalie-line stand for his victorious North team. He also recovered a fumble, knocked down two passes and was credited with a half-sack while playing most of the game.
“It was ecstatic. I played against the best competition I’ve ever seen!” said Phaby, who arrived in Tampa on Thursday morning for two days of practice.
“It felt so good. The Fike game I wasn’t really 100 percent yet but I was 100 percent in this game,” he added.
Phaby was joined on the North roster by fellow Hunt senior Jordan Allen, a wide receiver. Allen could not be reached for comment.
The Blue-Grey All-American Bowl, which began in 1989, is now a series of games in various NFL stadiums. There was one Dec. 17 at the Dallas Cowboys’ home, AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas. SouthWest Edgecombe High senior Darntrell Council played in that one.
There are also Blue-Grey All-American Bowls scheduled for Monday, Jan. 14, at NRG Stadium in Houston and another one at AT&T Stadium on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
Both Phaby and Council were selected to play after participating in All-American Combines the past two summers.
Phaby said that many of his Blue teammates, as well as those on the Grey, had already signed with NCAA Division I teams.
“A bunch of them already signed,” he said. “We had a guy committed to Pitt with 23 Div. I offers and another guy beside me with 22 offers had committed to Miami of Ohio. The guard I went against most of the game is committed to Arkansas.”
The player going to Pitt — Bryce Nelms of West Orange, New Jersey — was Phaby’s roommate in Tampa.
While Phaby enjoyed his experience at the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl, it was the last game he will play for a while. Phaby revealed that he had verbally committed to Barton College and will sign his National Letter of Intent to the Div. II school on National Signing Day, Feb. 6.
However, the Bulldogs won’t play their first season since 1950 until 2020 so Phaby and the other members of Barton head coach Chip Hester’s inaugural signing class will redshirt next fall. Phaby is excited to be a part of Barton and Wilson history and assured it will be worth the wait.
BRUINS BOUND FOR FLORIDA BOWL
Three Beddingfield High seniors will have a chance to play one more high school football game this weekend as Zach Adams, Willie Bridgers III and Tacoby Coleman are among the 70 high school seniors that will participate in the inaugural Spiral All-America Classic.
The high school senior all-star game is set for Saturday at Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand, Florida, where Stetson University plays its home games. The game will give players a chance to perform in front of college coaches, including those at the NCAA Division I level.
The three Bruins will play for the American team, coached by Steve Allen, the head coach at nearly DeLand High. The opposing National team will be coached by Paul Davis of Tohopekaliga High of Kissimmee, Florida.
While most of the players in the game are from Florida, players from California, Arizona, Alabama, Ohio, Texas, New York and Tennessee will also be in action. Two other North Carolina players — linebacker John Brown of Sandhills Titans club team and cornerback Corey Johnson Jr. of Burlington Williams — are also listed on the rosters.
Adams, Bridgers and Coleman were all two-way starters for a Beddingfield team that matched the second-highest win total in program history this season as the Bruins finished 9-3 and reached the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A playoffs. Adams was named to The Wilson Times All-Area Ironman team while Bridgers and Coleman landed on the Times All-Area Defensive Team. Bridgers was saluted as the Times Defensive Player of the Year.
SAULS AMONG NCHSAA HOF INDUCTEES
In an effort to move the induction ceremony of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame to the same calendar year as the class listing, the NCHSAA will hold two induction ceremonies in 2019.
The six-member class of 2019, which was announced Wednesday, will be introduced at press conference Jan. 30. The group includes a pair of eastern North Carolina football coaching legends in Dixon Sauls, who plied his craft at Ayden-Grifton and Farmville, and Gerald Whisenhunt, the longtime head coach at Goldsboro and later Eastern Wayne. The two men, along with the other four in the class of 2019, will be formally inducted at a banquet in Cary on Aug. 10.
The others are Cobby Deans, who coached girls and boys basketball at Bethel, North Pitt and D.H. Conley from 1967-1997; Stacey Lail Jr., basketball coach at Rutherfordton-Spindale Central from 1977-2003; Terry Rogers, basketball coach at Morganton Freedom from 1973-1998; W.A. Wall, basketball coach at Bethany and Rockingham County highs from 1959-1990.
Sauls was head coach at Ayden-Grifton from 1976-1984, going 48-27 with a pair of conference championships, before moving over to Farmville Central, where he coached from 1984-2010. Sauls led the Jaguars to a 198-92 mark, winning nine conference titles and the 1-AA Eastern championship in 2003. He also coached track, guiding FarmVille Central to eight league crowns and coaching eight individual state champions.
Whisenhunt coached football and wrestling at Goldsboro from 1960-1986, directing the Earthquakes and Cougars to state wrestling championships in 1966 and 1974, respectively. He moved over to Eastern Wayne in 1986 and was also athletic director at both schools.
The six members of the class of 2019 will precede the eight individuals in the NCHSAA Hall of Fame’s class of 2018 that will be inducted in April.
The eight, who were announced last September are Jim Brett (football/track coach at Tarboro, West Brunswick, Northern Nash and West Carteret); Marsha Crump (girls basketball coach at Morganton Freedom); Bob Lewis (football coach at Clinton and East Bladen); Gordon Patrick (wrestling coach at West Carteret); Marc Payne (basketball coach at Beaver Creek, Watauga County and Ashe County); Bobby Poss (football coach at Apex, Fayetteville Seventy-First, Hope Mills South View and Asheville A.C. Reynolds; and Colon Starrett (longtime basketball official).