Panthers defense holds on, escapes nail-biter against Dutchtown


Jack Fletcher

The Panther defense held Dutchtown to 36 yards on 32 carries, but gave up 356 yards in the air. However, a late interception on the deciding 2-point conversion by freshman safety Carson Walter sealed the game.

Rilee Stapleton, Staff Writer

After a last-minute touchdown scramble by Dutchtown quarterback K’lin Epps, putting the score at 31-29 in the Panthers favor, the Bulldogs still had hope. On the 2-point try to send the game to overtime, Starr’s Mill freshman safety Carson Walter intercepted the pass at the goal line and saved the Panthers’ flawless record.

“Three of our best DB’s were out, and that’s what we’re most proud of,” Panther head coach Chad Phillips said. “It was a great team victory.”

I was just very nervous and wanted to make a big play, and there it was, I saw the ball and just grabbed it.”

— Freshman Carson Walter

The Panthers have tried a more run-based offense which has led them to a 3-0 record. That offense helped sophomore running back Rico Frye gain 201 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, including a 72-yard run to set up his own touchdown.

“I hit the hole hard, and it opened up tonight,” Frye said “I want to say thanks to my linemen, it was all them.”

After an eight-play drive, including a 63-yard completion that resulted in a field goal for Dutchtown, the Panthers found themselves down 3-0. Five plays later, the Panthers capitalized on a 72-yard burst from Frye and a 1-yard touchdown run to take the lead 7-3.

“I couldn’t do any of that without my offensive linemen,” Frye said. “They came out here and blocked their heart out.”

At the start of the second quarter, Dutchtown ran an option and fumbled the ball on the pitch. Sophomore cornerback Cole Gilley picked it up and returned it 19 yards to put the Panthers up 14-3. A 60-yard touchdown pass from Epps to wide receiver D.J. Montgomery cut into the deficit, but a missed extra point made it 14-9.

The Panthers were not discouraged and completed an eight-play drive finished by a 24-yard touchdown catch by senior wide receiver Dion Munnerlyn. Dutchtown scored once more before halftime on a 55-yard pass to the end zone, and this second touchdown connection from Epps to Montgomery made it 21-16.

The Panthers rushing attack drove the offense down the field, with sophomore running back Rico Frye leading the way. He ran for 201 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

Jack Fletcher
The Panthers rushing attack drove the offense down the field, with sophomore running back Rico Frye leading the way. He ran for 201 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

The Bulldogs scored on the second play of the third quarter thanks to senior Dutchtown receiver David Dennis, who caught a 56-yard strike for Epps’ third touchdown pass of the night. Dutchtown had the lead, 23-21, and forced the Panthers to punt on their next possession. The Panthers seemed sluggish out of the half, but the defense picked it up and forced a turnover on downs in seven plays. Frye broke free for a 22-yard run, followed by his 39-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers in the lead 28-23.

The Panthers defense held again, forcing a punt, only for the offense to turn the ball over on downs on the next possession to start the fourth quarter. Another fumble by Dutchtown gave the ball back to The Panthers stuck to the run game, which led to a 38-yard field goal from senior kicker Whitaker Chu, increasing the Panther lead to 31-23. It was his first field goal attempt after agreeing to become the team’s new kicker while playing soccer in the offseason.


“I was lost. I was so happy,” Chu said, “That was amazing, nothing like it.”

With time running out, Dutchtown needed a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to tie. The Bulldogs’ third fumble recovered by the Panther defense almost put the game away, but the Bulldogs’ defense forced a Starr’s Mill punt.

Two plays later, with 1:31 left in the game, a 26-yard touchdown run from Bulldog running back Michael Reid gave Dutchtown their last chance to tie the game.

Walter became the hero of the night, jumping in front of a pass by Epps for the game-sealing interception, sparking a roar from the Panther crowd and celebration from the rest of the team.

The Panthers play host to Forest Park this Friday for the school’s homecoming game. The team is looking to stay undefeated, but will be playing without senior cornerback Satchel Goodrich for the second straight game, who broke a bone in his foot early last week. He is expected to be back in action for the Oct. 2 game against Drew.