It would have been easy for Phillip Zachery to get lost in the shuffle during his sophomore season.

As one of the many moving pieces to the Wing-T attack for the Villa Rica High School football team, he didn't necessarily start the campaign as the No. 1 concern for opposing defensive coordinators this fall.

But it didn't take long to learn that the Wildcat arsenal featured much more than the two established and high-profile backs.

Villa Rica already boasted a dangerous backfield that included senior wing back Elijah Fluker, the team's leading rusher from a season ago with more than 1,000 rushing yards to his credit in 2016, and the addition of Division I recruit Mecose Todd during the offseason.

But not only did Zachery, the 2017 Times-Georgian All-Area Newcomer of the Year, join that crew as a major player in the offense, he emerged as one of the top up-and-coming talents on both the local scene and across the state behind his breakout campaign.

"He did everything we asked him to do. Our backfield is very unselfish as a three-back offense. Just an unselfish player. He blocks real well, but he's a dynamic runner, too," VR head coach Rico Zackery said. "His vision and different types of ability to cut and things of that nature, just a lot of things that other people can't see."

The sophomore standout actually led the Wildcat offense with 1,144 all-purpose yards, including a team-best 787 yards on the ground — averaging 9.6 yards per carry — with 200 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns.

Zachery said the chemistry among the Villa Rica skill players was strong from the start and everybody enjoyed watching the other succeed on Friday nights.

"We're all around the same level. None of us stand out any more than the other, so we just go out and play hard," Zachery said.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Fluker battled injuries for the better part of his senior season, putting even more of the load on Zachery and Todd, while junior linebacker Du'Shaunte Holloway also joined the fray to help fill the void.

Zackery noted that when defenses tried to take away one part of the equation, the other back was more than ready to step up and take the lead.

"A lot of people may have focused a little more on Mecose until they figured out Phillip was just as good," Zackery said. "It's a great problem to have two kids that can play to that potential. Both of them are very, very unselfish players. That's the thing that I was really blown away by."

Zachery, who already has offers from Southern Mississippi, Georgia Southern and Northern Arizona, broke into the varsity lineup as a freshman, but he really came on strong this past fall upon establishing a leading role.

Along with gaining more experience, Zachery and the rest of the squad experienced a coaching change during the offseason, and he thought everyone handled it with the right mindset and attitude.

"At first it was a little tough, but we accepted it and did well. Everybody bought into it and we just had to handle it and buy in and I think everyone did that," Zachery said.

Looking ahead to the next two years, Zackery expects big things out of his vaunted backfield, and No. 5 will have a lot to say about how far they can take it.

"He's really a complete back. We'd just like to see him get a little stronger in the weight room, work on his acceleration and things of that nature. But he's a straight-A student. We don't have any problems with him. He's a model player for us," Zackery said. "He sets the example. He doesn't complain a lot, but he doesn't talk a lot. He leads by example."

And Zachery is eager to raise the bar at Villa Rica and lift the program to new heights before he starts suiting up on Saturdays.

"Next year we're definitely going to come out strong," Zachery said. "I just look forward to playing and hopefully going to the playoffs this year and next year and keep getting better."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.