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Father's fame is Phillips' fortune Atholton senior leads soccer team


Sons of famous fathers sometimes feel added pressure to succeed.

But Atholton High senior midfielder Derek Phillips, son of Lincoln Phillips, says that isn't so in his case.

"It helps to have a famous father," Phillips said. "He's taught me a lot, and I like it when he comes to my games."

Lincoln Phillips, whose resume includes coaching the U.S. national team's goalkeepers and 10 years as head coach at Howard University, coaches the varsity men's team at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Derek, who attended Atholton as a freshman, spent the past two years attending high school in Richmond. He returned to Atholton for his senior year for two reasons.

"We thought he would do better academically at Atholton, because he received more one-on-one attention from teachers when he was here. And the level of soccer competition is higher here," Lincoln Phillips said.

Derek lives in Clemens Crossing with his two older brothers, Sheldon, 26, and Greg, 23. "I missed being around them," he said. Derek's father and mother travel to Columbia on most weekends.

Derek's move obviously pleased Atholton coach Reg Hahne.

Why not? Phillips has scored five goals and made two assists in Atholton's first seven games. He's the type of player who demands respect from his opponents.

Phillips played on the Maryland state team for three years and the Virginia state team for one year. His former club team, the Columbia Crew, won two state cups.

Lincoln Phillips attended Atholton's game last Friday at Glenelg. But the Raiders (5-1-1) lost their first game of the season, 2-0.

And Derek, as did most of his teammates, performed at a disappointing level for a squad that hopes to win a county title this season.

Whether the Raiders had an emotional letdown after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Oakland Mills Tuesday, or whether they were outclassed, is speculation. But they played a flat game.

Phillips was emotionally up and down after the Oakland Mills game. He was happy his team won, and that he helped set up the winning goal with some fancy passing and dribbling. He was sad about missing a penalty kick in such a close game.

Phillips scored two of his five goals during a 2-2 tie with Meade, the only other blemish on Atholton's record before Friday's loss. He also scored twice against Bethesda and once against Loyola.

Atholton has beaten Kennedy, Loyola, Bethesda, Glen Burnie and Oakland Mills.

Phillips started the season against Kennedy at forward. Coach Reg Hahne moved him to midfield in the next game.

"We decided he was going to be a marked man at forward, and also that he plays better when he comes onto the ball," Hahne said. "He plays midfield for his club team [FC Bethesda] and was thankful when I moved him there."

Phillips thinks his best skill is his passing. "I don't like to dribble too long. I like to one touch or two touch because people have been going for my ankles. I got hacked in the first game," he said. His right ankle has bothered him most of the season, he said.

"Derek is elusive, thinks several steps ahead and sometimes gets frustrated when his teammates don't anticipate," Hahne said. "He sees the game well, doesn't hog the ball and his jumping ability sets him apart."

Phillips is strong in the air. His main weakness is that he's all left-footed. "I just started working on my right foot this year," he said.

He's also not as fast as he could be, partly because his stride is too long.

"Derek will develop speed when he gets to college and does some speed work," his father said. "He's still a developing player, not near his potential. In college, he'll probably play a marking back or sweeper, because he's a good defender who can come forward and score."

Soccer has been a part of Derek's life since his early days. He has played soccer since he was able to walk. He accompanied his father to practices and on game trips an entire college season as a 4-year-old.

Familiarity hasn't bred contempt, however. Derek maintains a strong enthusiasm for the sport.

"I still enjoy it a lot," he said. "I hope to play in college."

For his father, maybe?

"I'd like to have him, but I wouldn't want to put that kind of pressure on him," Lincoln Phillips said.

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