Aztec's Mikey Phillips emerging as go-to target

Matt Hollinshead,
Aztec's Mikey Phillips jumps up in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown reception during practice on Wednesday, Aug. 7 at Fred Cook Stadium in Aztec.

AZTEC – Mikey Phillips is emerging as a go-to target in short-yardage situations.

Whenever Aztec needs to extend drives on second-and-5, third-and-6, the Tigers slot receiver counted on to make the quick catch. He drops his shoulders and creates space bursting forward.

“A lot of it was just short little rhythm routes, just to get the ball in my hands and try to get yards after the catch, which I thought I did alright on,” Phillips said. “I would just see the leverage of the (cornerback) and linebacker, just set myself up and try to find green grass to get open.”

Whether it’s a curl route or a flat route, Phillips is there. And now he’s more involved in post routes and other isolation plays downfield, making him even more valuable.

“I’d like to help out any way I could,” Phillips said. “Everybody counts on me to be the short-distance guy, and that’s good. I think I can open up my game a lot more if I became a deeper threat, too.”

Aztec's Mikey Phillips pivots to the right after a catch and drives forward during practice on Wednesday, Aug. 7 at Fred Cook Stadium in Aztec. Phillips looks to build strong end to 2018 as a go-to target.

Although he had just 40 catches for 421 receiving yards in 2018, 17 of those catches led to 214 receiving yards in the final five games alone (Aztec’s three District 1-4A games, two 4A playoff games).

“He’s one of those guys that understands the slot position real well. He can come off the line of scrimmage, see and identify whether he’s in a man or zone (coverage) and run his routes accordingly,” coach Matthew Steinfeldt said. “He does a great job of (driving vertically), and that allows him to split defenders. Dropping that shoulder, dropping that hip allows him to then accelerate and take on a would-be tackler.”

Phillips said he’s now getting his hands up more often and setting up his feet, ensuring he can be ready to make the quick grab every time.

Phillips is adamant that the more touches he gets, the more valuable he can be. Even if that’s extra 5-yard catch here, that extra 10-yard catch there, he wants to keep doing damage.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 or on Twitter at @MattH_717.