In just his third season in a Purple Lions uniform, Casey Phillips set Dryden’s career goals record with his 63rd goal on Sept. 27. It was a record held by Dan Holland that stood for 10 years, and with Phillips being only a junior, his name will be at the top of the list for a long time.
After earning an assist early in the second half against Greene in the eighth game of the season, Phillips’ record-breaking goal came with just two minutes left in regulation.
“I got a pass from one of my teammates at the top of the box,” Phillips said. “I cut to the right and went down the field, shot it and it went bottom right, and the keeper couldn’t save it.”
The goal secured a 2-0 victory, but Phillips was temporarily in the dark regarding his place in history thanks to a combined effort from friends and family. For the time being, it was just another ball in the back of the net.
“[I found out] after. I had no idea. My teammates and parents all kept it a secret from me,” Phillips said. “Then after the game, everyone was congratulating me and I was like, ‘For what?’ They told me, ‘You just broke the record!’ I said, ‘Oh! I didn’t know that.’ It was pretty crazy.”
While Phillips was aware at the beginning of the season that he was approaching the record, it didn’t provide any added pressure. His mindset is very team-oriented, and the record “just happened.”
With an incredible 24 goals and counting this season, Phillips was born to play soccer. His parents knew right away and his skills developed accordingly.
“Since I could walk. It was with my dad. I was always practicing with him in the backyard, then little league, then Sertoma,” he said. “I kept going from there. He coached myself and pretty much this whole varsity team as a youth group in U12. That’s how long we’ve been playing together.”
That U12 team regularly competed against U15 opponents, showcasing the advanced skill level of both Phillips and the tight-knit varsity team as a whole. Chemistry is a big part of their success, and that is built beyond the field of play.
“We’re all buddies on and off the field. We just always have a good time. We’ve always played well together,” Phillips said. “We know what the next person is going to do, where they want the ball. It’s just easier to play with people you know.”
Currently holding a 10-2 record despite only having five seniors, the Purple Lions are an incredibly dangerous squad. Last year, Dryden fell to Chenango Valley in the semifinals of the Section IV Class B tournament. With his personal goals spoken for, Phillips is entirely focused on leading his team on a deep playoff run.
“[I want to be] sectional champions. I don’t really focus on personal goals anymore,” he said. “It’s all about the team and how much more we can do together. Definitely sectional champions. Maybe states. I’m not really focused on anything personal.”
Unfortunately, after Phillips scored his historic goal, Dryden hit a roadblock. In the very next game, the Purple Lions fell to Chenango Forks in overtime, then were shut out by Marathon the following day.
After facing some adversity, coach Laszlo Engel changed the formation the team uses and put a focus on ball movement. The shake-up worked, as the Purple Lions outscored their next two opponents 10-2 with Phillips tallying four of those goals.
With two games remaining, including a key matchup against two-time state champion Lansing, Phillips has lofty expectations for his team.
“I think we can totally go the rest of the season undefeated,” Phillips said. “Then we have sectionals which we have a pretty good chance of winning because we’ve played most of the teams we’re going to be competing with, and I think we have a really good chance against them. Then we’ll see how it goes when we get to states.”
For Phillips himself, the junior is already making plans to play at the next level. He’s looked at schools at both the Division I and Division II level, but will of course have another year to add to his record at Dryden. Since the 63rd goal, Phillips has tallied five more to bring the total to 68. However, he won’t be satisfied until Dryden wins the Section IV tournament.
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