Cats’ Phillips in transition

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Clovis football coach Eric Roanhaus directs the play to go through the “2” hole as quarterback Josh Potocki, left, hands off to Manuel Robles during Monday’s practice at CHS.

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

Derrick Phillips is transitioning from defense to offense this season, but he doesn’t think the challenge will be especially difficult.

The 5-foot-8, 160-pound Clovis High senior is moving from cornerback to running back. He hopes to help fill the considerable shoes left by the graduated Brian Mead, who rushed for more than 2,100 yards and 33 touchdowns a year ago.

Phillips figures the best way to approach it is to be on the attack.

“It’s the same mentality,” said Phillips, who played running back two years ago on the sophomore and junior varsity teams. “You ‘head-hunt’ either way, but you’re just going the opposite way.”

Senior Manuel Robles, who rushed for more than 1,100 yards in 2006, returns in the backfield. Phillips hopes to take the pressure off Robles.

“It’s no pressure on me, really,” he said. “I’m just going to play the game and do the best I can.”

Much like washing your car if you want it to rain, you can usually count on the first day of football practice to bring out the hot weather. The Cats went through a three-hour workout in shorts and helmets on Monday with the temperature soaring well above 90 degrees.

Since school starts Wednesday, coaches opted for an afternoon-only practice on Monday and Tuesday to settle into a routine. The team will don full pads for the first time on Thursday.

“We just did the regular first-day stuff,” CHS assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “The (newer) kids have to figure out ‘varsity speed’ versus junior varsity speed, but hopefully we have some leaders who can help them do that.”

Kelley said the practice went well, although the heat made things a little tough.

“They did a good job early,” he said. “It’s tough on a day like today when it’s 90 degrees; that’s the hard part.”

The Cats don’t have a lot of time to get ready. Their annual scrimmage against Las Cruces High is on tap for Aug. 24 at the Wool Bowl in Roswell, with the regular-season opener a week later at two-time Class 5A champion Mayfield.

“I’d like to have another week (to get ready), but no one in the state has that,” Kelley said.

For Phillips, it makes his impending transition a little tougher.

“It’s really not (enough time to get ready),” Phillips said. “But it shouldn’t be a factor. I feel like if we come together as a team, we’ll have enough time.”