Gilley gives homecoming crowd 248 reasons to celebrate

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Gilley gives homecoming crowd 248 reasons to celebrate

Junior running back Cole Gilley speeds past multiple Mustang defenders. Gilley set two new school records in a 49-0 rout of Morrow.

Junior running back Cole Gilley speeds past multiple Mustang defenders. Gilley set two new school records in a 49-0 rout of Morrow.

Aelise Gagliano

Junior running back Cole Gilley speeds past multiple Mustang defenders. Gilley set two new school records in a 49-0 rout of Morrow.

Aelise Gagliano

Aelise Gagliano

Junior running back Cole Gilley speeds past multiple Mustang defenders. Gilley set two new school records in a 49-0 rout of Morrow.

Rilee Stapleton, Staff Writer

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The Morrow Mustangs visited Panther Stadium for a matchup with Starr’s Mill on homecoming night. Junior running back Cole Gilley led the Panthers to a 49-0 victory, scoring six touchdowns to go along with his 248 yards on 19 carries.

“I couldn’t do it without my linemen,” Gilley said. “I can’t thank them enough for how good they blocked tonight.”

Junior running back Nick Brown gained 73 yards on six carries and freshman halfback Khalen Sims broke off a 73-yard score against the Mustangs. Morrow only gained 206 yards, with 112 of them coming on the ground from senior quarterback Austin Dixon.

The Panther defense only allowed 12 pass yards and came up with two interceptions on their way to their first shutout of the season. Along with forcing two fumbles, the Panthers forced four punts and stopped Morrow two out of three times on fourth down.

“[The defense] showed up, and raised to the occasion,” defensive coordinator Jeff Schmidlkofer said. “They got the win and the shutout. That’s what we want.”

Morrow opened the game with possession, but threw an interception on the second play of the game, and the Panthers got right to work. On the fifth play of the first Starr’s Mill possession, Gilley broke off an 18-yard run, and four plays later scored his first touchdown of the night.

Down 7-0, the Mustangs looked to respond, but after four plays they turned the ball over on downs. Now, with 6:48 left in the first, the Panthers were ready to stretch the lead to 14, but Sims lost the ball and Morrow recovered the fumble. However, a stout Panther defense forced the Mustangs to punt.

Junior linebacker Ryan Cockes evades a Morrow defender during a punt return. The Panthers defense forced four turnovers and four punts against the Mustangs.

Aelise Gagliano
Junior linebacker Ryan Cockes evades a Morrow defender during a punt return. The Panthers defense forced four turnovers and four punts against the Mustangs.

“We challenged our guys this week and they did everything we asked,” head coach Chad Phillips said. “We’re proud of them and we just have to keep improving.”

The Panthers next drive started with a 28-yard completion from junior quarterback Joey DeLuca to Gilley, followed by a 20-yard run from junior Mitch Prowant. However, a couple of plays later DeLuca lost another fumble, giving the ball back to the Mustangs.

The Panthers’ defense was only on the field for five plays before forcing the second Morrow punt of the night. Brown opened the next drive with a 24-yard carry, and on the next play Gilley scored from 29 yards out. With 8:05 left in the first half the Panthers held a 14-0 lead.

“[Gilley] is just a team player,” Schmidlkofer said. “He doesn’t say a whole lot, he just gets to work.”

The next Mustang drive started with a 14-yard run, as the Mustangs needed to answer, but two plays later, Morrow fumbled and gave the ball back to Starr’s Mill. The Panthers only ran three plays before Gilley found the end zone for the third time that night.

Up 21-0, the Panthers showed no signs of slowing down as the defense forced another punt, and Gilley took a handoff 49 yards for a score on the first play of the following Panther drive. 4:52 was all that remained in the first half, and the Mustangs faced a 28-0 deficit.

“[The effort] wasn’t there in the beginning,” DeLuca said. “We started slow, but we picked it up.”

Morrow gained 31 yards on the first three plays of their next drive, but another fumble would cost them a potential shot at putting points on the board. Once again, Gilley found the end zone, this time from 29 yards out.

The Panthers defense came through once more before halftime, as they grabbed their second interception of the game. The offense then kneeled the clock out, taking the game to halftime. The Panthers outgained the Mustangs, 314-105, on total first-half yards.  

“We’ve been working really hard in practice,” Gilley said. “We’ve been grinding and we’re trying to get better every week.”

Juniors Nick Brown and Joey DeLuca celebrate a touchdown by Gilley. He found the end zone six different times, which is a Starr’s Mill record.

Aelise Gagliano
Juniors Nick Brown and Joey DeLuca celebrate a touchdown by Gilley. He found the end zone six different times, which is a Starr’s Mill record.

The Panthers opened the second half with a four-play, 41-yard touchdown drive featuring Gilley’s sixth touchdown of the night. This time, he scored on a 20-yard rush and the score was pushed to 42-0.

The following Mustang drive started with 10:20 left in third and ended with 1:18 remaining in the quarter. The 19 play drive featured multiple big plays from Dixon, as he had 12 carries throughout the possession. However, the Panther defense made a goal line stand, and forced a turnover-on-downs at their own 1-yard line.

“We’re continuing to improve,” Phillips said. “There’s things to fix, but it’s good that we’re continuing to get better.”  

Three plays later, Sims scored on a 73-yard run, increasing the lead to 49-0. Morrow answered with their fourth punt of the night, and the Panthers offense ran the rest of the clock out, ending the misery for the Mustangs. The catalyst in the Panthers victory was Gilley, who now holds the school records for yards in a single game and touchdowns in a single game.

“[Gilley is] a ball player, a competitor,” Phillips said. “He’s a great kid and we’re proud of him and happy for him.”

The Panthers can’t celebrate Friday’s win for too long, as the next team on their schedule is the undefeated Griffin Bulldogs. The Bulldogs also played on Friday, beating Whitewater 56-21. The Panthers look to prove themselves in region play and defeat Griffin on the road. The game is Sept 30, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m.