You wouldn't know by watching him, especially during Friday night's season opener at Corona del Sol, but Nate Phillips said the game has slowed down for him.
It's scary to think what the Basha wide receiver will do when the game catches up to his lightning-like quickness.
Phillips made his case to be considered one of the state's elite wideouts, catching five touchdown passes in the Bears' 45-13 victory. The electric Phillips used separation speed and jaw-dropping open-field moves to finish with 178 yards on six catches.
He and quarterback Zach Werlinger, who made his first career start, connected four times in the first half as the Bears opened a 28-13 lead.
"The game has definitely slowed down since I was a sophomore, even a junior," Phillips said. "It's crazy to think I am one of the old guys now. It feels different."
For the first time in his career, Phillips is catching passes from Werlinger. They looked like they have been playing together for years.
"Zach and I have a good chemistry going," said Phillips, who had seven touchdown receptions a year ago. "We can both read the defenses and know where we should be. It's like we're playing catch on the sidelines."
Werlinger finished the game 12 for 21 for 215 yards and one interception.
Coach Bernie Busken knows where Phillips is at all times, too, but doesn't feel the Bears have to go out of their way to get him the ball.
"We feel we have quite a few good players on this team," said the coach, who led Basha to last year's Division I state semifinal. "We don't necessarily just look for him. It comes through our progression. But we definitely know where he's at. And I like that. I like him on our side."
Despite the lopsided final score, Corona was in the game through the first quarter. A 3-yard scoring run from James Contes brought the Aztecs to within 14-13 late in the opening frame.
But a failed onside kick gave Basha the ball near midfield, and five plays later, Phillips made it 21-13 on a 23-yard scoring pass. On the next possession, after Corona 's Beau Sitton intercepted a pass at the Aztecs' goal line, the hosts turned the ball over on downs at their own 41. Again it was Phillips making Corona pay, this time from 35 yards out to make it 28-13.
Phillips would add a 41-yard score early in the fourth quarter for a 38-13 lead with 9:45 to play.
"We felt like we were moving the ball in the first half," Corona quarterback R.J. Rhiner said following his first start. "We had our running game going. A couple mistakes cost us."
Basha did not allow the Aztecs past the Bears' 40-yard-line in the second half and intercepted a pair of passes. Basha also got its running game ramped up, rushing for 151 second-half yards. Backup quarterback Isaac Niemtsck rushed for 78 of his 90 yards in the second half to give the Bears a lethal one-two combination behind center.
"We really like the players we have," Busken said. "I thought both of our quarterbacks were really good in their first-ever games."
Basha 45, Corona del Sol 13
B - 14 14 3 14 - 45
C - 13 0 0 0 - 13
C - Mayfield 21 pass from Rhiner (run failed)
B - Phillips 46 pass from Werlinger (Carrillo kick)
B - Phillips 8 pass from Werlinger (Carrillo kick)
C - Contes 3 run (Link kick)
B - Phillips 23 pass from Werlinger (Carrillo kick)
B - Phillips 35 pass from Werlinger (Carrillo kick)
B - Carrillo 25 FG
B - Phillips 41 pass from Werlinger (Carrillo kick)
B - Marxman 1 run (Carrillo kick)
Rushing yards: B - 242; C - 198
Passing yards B - 12-22-215-1; C - 6-17-135-3
First downs B - 21; C - 12
Penalties-yards B - 3-25; C - 5-50
Fumbles-lost B - 0-0; C - 2-1