Whether he was passing around a Jolly Rancher or a football, Aaron Philo did a good job of distributing last Friday night.
Philo, quarterback of the Prince Avenue Christian football team, led the Wolverines to a 59-18 thumping of Christian Academy of Knoxville and set a new program record for single-game passing yardage along the way.
A lightning delay pushed kickoff to 8:30 p.m., so the Wolverines had some time to kill. Philo ate a blue raspberry Jolly Rancher. He gave a watermelon-flavored one to Bailey Stockton, and the two of them tossed a ball around in the locker room.
Later in the night, Philo gave the football to Stockton four times to the tune of 131 yards passing, which helped Philo throw for a program-record 554 yards.
“It was just receivers running the right routes,” Philo said about the passing success. “The line blocked great [Friday]. I couldn't ask for a better o-line.”
Philo’s 554 yards passing eclipsed a 525-yard effort by former Prince Avenue signal-caller Brock Vandagriff against Eagle’s Landing Christian on Nov. 22, 2019.
His top target last Friday was Ethan Christian, who caught five passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns.
Their first touchdown connection pushed the Wolverines out to a 17-0 lead. Christian said that fast start was crucial, considering CAK was likely motivated to make an immediate impression.
“They had a long drive, so if we didn't come out and set the tone, they may have hit us in the mouth first,” Christian said.
Philo scored the game’s first touchdown on a 6-yard run early in the first quarter. Bryson Franklin kicked a 26-yard field goal about five minutes later and then Philo and Christian connected for their first touchdown early in the second quarter.
CAK scored on a 17-yard run less than 10 minutes before halftime but missed the PAT. Seconds later, Philo tossed a 75-yard scoring throw to Christian to make it 24-6.
Philo scored on a 3-yard run with 6:51 left in the second quarter and, about two minutes later, he hit Mac Bradley for a 6-yard score to go up 38-6.
A short rushing score by CAK came with 1:05 to go in the half, bringing the score to 38-12 after CAK failed a 2-point conversion.
CAK cut the lead to 38-18 with 4:30 left in the third on another rushing touchdown followed by a failed 2-point try. Philo and Christian hooked up on an 88-yard strike as the third quarter expired, improving Prince Avenue’s lead to 45-18.
With 8:16 left in the game, Philo found Stockton on a 70-yard score and then Bradley ran in for the final score, giving the Wolverines their decisive 59-18 edge.
The blowout win followed a loss in the season opener at Calvary Day School. The 21-13 defeat wound up close despite five Wolverine turnovers.
Still, a handful of Prince alumni – including Brock Vandagriff, Phillip Kelley, Logan Johnson and Andrew Ridings – contacted the current players and urged them to do better.
“We were ready to hit someone after the loss against Calvary,” Stockton said. “We had a lot of the seniors from last year text us and be like, ‘That's not how we play football at Prince Avenue. We like to win.’ We took that personal.”
Wolverines head coach Greg Vandagriff said he and his staff made a change to their approach after the week one defeat.
“Instead of our normal schedule, we tried to zone in on Monday with what we wanted to do and just sort of repeated it every day so they'll have a grasp of it,” Vandagriff said. “We simplified the game plan a little bit with the receivers, just so they could execute at a higher level and Aaron would know his reads better. I think we may have given them too much [against Calvary] and we simplified it and it was better for everybody.”
The game against CAK would have been unique even without the hour-long delay and Philo’s historic performance.
Originally, the Wolverines were scheduled to host Rabun County after playing at Rabun in 2020. Rabun pulled out of the game and scheduled Pace Academy, and the two faced each other on ESPN last Saturday.
Vandagriff said the idea to bring in CAK came from a future event that will feature Prince Avenue Christian and other private schools in a Corky Kell Classic-like showcase to be held in Tennessee in 2022.
“We called them to try and get them in that game next year,” Vandagriff said. “We're gonna play them here and then we'll go up there and play next year and they'll play somebody else and we'll play somebody else. There will be a lot of people up there.”
This Friday, the Wolverines will play at Providence Christian Academy hoping to improve their record above .500.
They will make the trip to Lilburn with a first-year starting quarterback who is beginning to settle in after two games at the helm.
“I'm feeling way more calmed down,” Philo said upon completing the game, his second as the Wolverines’ starting quarterback. “After getting those two games under my belt, I feel much more comfortable.”