Phillips kicks Ohio squad into high gear

ONE MORE KICK — Former Steubenville kicker Ian Phillips was selected to participate in the OVAC All-Star game, which will occur on Saturday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

WINTERSVILLE — Ohio head coach Andrew Connor completed the breakdown of his rosters for Saturday’s OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star game with the announcement of his intended defensive backs and kicker.

Connor, who is the head coach at Indian Creek, will formally meet all of his players today, as camp opens at Bethany College to begin preparations for the game, which will kick off at 7:15 p.m. at Wheeling Island Stadium.

The Ohio side boasts versatility in the defensive backfield, with numerous players who shined on the offensive side of the ball and the kicker (Steubenville’s Ian Phillips) has big-game experience.

“We have a lot of athletes at D.B.,” Connor said. “We have two guys (Union Local’s Cal Kildow and Bridgeport’s Tino Kusic) who were quarterbacks for their teams, so they know how that position thinks. We have two kids from St. Clairsville (Craig Bober and Justin Heatherington) who have shined on both sides of the ball. I believe we’ll be able to cover because giving up big plays is something we can’t have since they can change a game quickly.”

Phillips was the Big Red kicker the past two seasons, including kicking in the Division IV state championship game in 2017.

“Some people may take kicking in the high school game for granted, but being able to keep the game on sevens is big,” Connor said. “Ian has proven to be very consistent, and he’s able to kick field goals. So, if we get close, we feel like we can get points.”

Here’s a capsule look at the players:

CRAIG BOBER, St. Clairsville — This former Red Devils’ standout was a viable target in a seldom-used passsing game and made the most of his limited work in the defensive backfield for coach Brett McLean’s team.

The 6-4, 185-pounder caught 23 passes for 388 yards and three touchdowns as a senior. He also had two interceptions. As a junior, he had 23 catches for 428 yards and nine touchowns. Bober was named All-OVAC, All-Valley, All-Buckeye 8 and All-Eastern District for his work on the football field.

Along with football, he was a standout in basketball, earning all-district and All-OVAC honors, while being chosen for the OVAC All-Star game.

Away from athletics, Bober was a standout in the classroom. He’s a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish Club.

Craig, who is the son of Ed and Tammy Bober, plans to attend West Liberty.

JUSTIN HEATHERINGTON, St. Clairsville — Prior to an injury, this Red Devils’ senior was enjoying a most productive campaign for McLean and the Red Devils.

The 6-2, 170-pounder rushed for 577 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught 15 passes for 457 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had three interceptions and was one of the teams’ leading tacklers before injuring his knee. Heatherington was named All-Buckeye 8, All-OVAC, All-Eastern District and All-Valley.

Along with football, Heatherington was a two-event state qualifier in track and field and was an All-Ohioan in the high jump in 2017.

Justin, who is the son of Carrie James and Scott Heatherington, plans to attend Ohio University Eastern.

CAL KILDOW, Union Local — This former Jet did a little bit of everything, including trigger the offense in 2018 for head coach Bernie Thompson’s team.

The 5-7, 140-pounder was a quarterback for two seasons. He threw for more than 1,000 yards each season. He also landed 15 touchdowns and 56 percent of his passes. Kildow was named All-OVAC twice, All-Eastern District, All-Valley and All-Buckeye 8.

Along with football, Kildow was a standout in basketball and baseball, too. He played in the OVAC All-Star games.

Away from athletics, Kildow was the president of his class, member of the Drug Free Club, Future Educators of America, Fellowship of Christian Students.

Cal, who is the son of Todd and Julie Kildow, plans to attend Waynesburg.

TINO KUSIC, Bridgeport — This former Bulldogs’ standout shined on both sides of the ball for coach Fred Ray’s team.

The 5-11, 185-pounder shined at quarterback and in the secondary. He threw for 2,928 yards and 30 touchdowns as a junior. He followed that up with 1,002 passing and 859 rushing yards last season. Kusic was named third-team All-Ohio as a junior and twice named All-OVAC.

Along with football, Kusic was an all-Ohioan in wrestling.

Tino, who is the son of John Kusic and Conishia Kusic, plans to attend West Liberty.

IAN PHILLIPS, Steubenville — This former Big Red standout was a key cog in the success of coach Reno Saccoccia’s team because of the strength of his foot.

The 5-8, 150-pounder handled the placekicking for Steubenville, nailing a school-record 110 PATs. He also connected on two field goals with a long of 33 yards.

Away from the field, he’s an academic All-Ohioan, member of the Key Club, Rotary Club, National Honor Society and served on the OVAC’s Varsity Board.

Ian, who plans to attend Washington & Jefferson, is the son of Bill and Marla Phillips.