Steve DePhillips, Fullerton High School fullback, thought his high school football career was over with 33 seconds remaining and his team trailing La Mirada, 21-14, in the opening round of the Southern Section Division VI playoffs.
“Even my grandparents had left the game,” DePhillips said.
DePhillips thought Fullerton’s final play, from its 47-yard line, was a mistake when Coach Steve Nishimoto sent it into the huddle with only seconds remaining.
“I didn’t think it was the right call,” DePhillips said.
But once he caught a short shovel pass from quarterback Brent Bice, he knew he had to reach the end zone.
DePhillips, a 6-foot 1-inch, 190-pound senior, broke six tackles during a 53-yard touchdown run with 2 seconds remaining, and teammate John Bailey’s conversion kick tied the score at 21.
Fullerton went on to win the game, 24-21, when Bailey kicked a 33-yard field goal in the California Tiebreaker overtime period. The victory sets up a quarterfinal game against Kennedy at 7:30 tonight in Fullerton District Stadium.
DePhillips’ heroics shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. He was the team’s leading rusher, pass receiver and scorer going into the game.
“He knows he’s good and he’s willing to show it,” Nishimoto said. “He’s a confident kid who likes the pressure situations.”
DePhillips also displayed his versatility against La Mirada. He rushed for 121 yards in 22 carries, caught 6 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown and threw a 52-yard touchdown pass on an option play.
DePhillips categorized his last-second touchdown run as his most significant touchdown in his 3-year varsity career at Fullerton.
“I’ve been playing football for 11 years, and I think that was the best run I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “I had three defenders coming at me when I broke outside. I stopped and two guys missed me.
“I carried another into the end zone. I’ll never forget that play because all their fans were singing goodby and then their whole side of the stadium went dead quiet. My legs were aching, but I was determined to get to the end zone.”
DePhillips has become well acquainted with the end zone. He has rushed for 1,320 yards in 200 carries and scored 14 touchdowns this season. He has caught 17 passes for 287 yards and 3 touchdowns. And he has thrown 2 touchdown passes on option plays.
“I used to play quarterback in Junior All-American football,” he said. “I like throwing the ball, sometimes.”
But DePhillips’ forte is running out of Fullerton’s triple option attack. He has good size, decent speed, good instincts and the ability to run over or around defenders. He also plays strong safety and leads the team with 3 interceptions.
“Scouts and college coaches came in here looking at Steve as a defensive player last spring,” Nishimoto said. “I don’t think he has the speed to become a college running back, but he has a great future at outside linebacker.”
DePhillips also was the starting catcher for Fullerton’s league champion baseball team, hitting .333 with 9 home runs. He’s hoping to be drafted in the spring.
“If it wasn’t for athletics, I wouldn’t be in school,” he said. “I’m always playing sports, even if it’s just touch football with some friends in the parking lot.”