Questionable call hands Panthers their first region loss

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Questionable call hands Panthers their first region loss

Junior running back Nick Brown tries to break away from a Wildcat defender. Brown scored both of his touchdowns during the Panthers’ fourth quarter rally.

Junior running back Nick Brown tries to break away from a Wildcat defender. Brown scored both of his touchdowns during the Panthers’ fourth quarter rally.

Aelise Gagliano

Junior running back Nick Brown tries to break away from a Wildcat defender. Brown scored both of his touchdowns during the Panthers’ fourth quarter rally.

Aelise Gagliano

Aelise Gagliano

Junior running back Nick Brown tries to break away from a Wildcat defender. Brown scored both of his touchdowns during the Panthers’ fourth quarter rally.

Rilee Stapleton, Staff Writer

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Last year’s 21-7 defeat had the Whitewater Wildcats looking for revenge this season. On Friday, they got their revenge, beating Starr’s Mill 45-37. The loss was the first region loss of the season for the Panthers.

“If we win out, we can still be number one [in the region],” offensive coordinator Brent Moseley said. “I think we can finish in first.”

Junior Mitch Prowant races a Whitewater defender to the end zone. Prowant has scored nine touchdowns so far this season, rushing and receiving, and has been a catalyst in the Panthers’ effective backfield.

Aelise Gagliano
Junior Mitch Prowant races a Whitewater defender to the end zone. Prowant has scored nine touchdowns so far this season, rushing and receiving, and has been a catalyst in the Panthers’ effective backfield.

The Panthers’ run game was led by juniors Nick Brown and Cole Gilley. Brown ran the ball 12 times, gaining 101 yards and two scores, while Gilley picked up 129 yards on 20 carries, also scoring one touchdown himself. Junior quarterback Joey DeLuca completed five of his seven passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.

Leading the way for Whitewater was senior running back Isaiah Montgomery, who ran for 220 yards and three scores on 23 carries. Senior running back Musa Ali had 16 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown. Former Starr’s Mill quarterback Stone Kasten completed six of his seven passes for 116 yards and a touchdown against his old team.

“We have to tackle better,” head coach Chad Phillips said. “[But] we’ve made a few changes that should help us moving forward.”

The game started with Whitewater marching right down into the redzone. They went 68 yards in five plays, but the sixth play ended the drive as Ali lost the ball, giving Starr’s Mill possession. However, four plays later Gilley fumbled and gave the ball right back to the Wildcats.

Whitewater didn’t make any mistakes this time, scoring in two plays to put the first points on the board and take a 7-0 lead. On their next possession, the Panthers couldn’t answer as they fumbled again, and Whitewater had a chance to extend their lead.

“We were careless with the ball,” Phillips said. “There is no excuse for not maintaining ball security.”

The third play of the next Wildcat drive was a 35-yard pass from Kasten, and on the next play Montgomery scored his first touchdown of the night. Now down 14-0, the Panthers needed to answer.

The Panthers responded with a 9-play drive, which ended with a 28-yard touchdown pass from DeLuca to junior Mitch Prowant, cutting the deficit to seven. Whitewater took over with 9:15 left in the first half. Over the next five minutes, the Wildcats ran 11 plays and eventually scored on a 1-yard from Montgomery, increasing the lead to 21-7.

The Panthers had 4:11 left to score before half. They were able to find the endzone in just 2:28. The 6-play scoring drive ended with Gilley punching it in from six yards out. The Panthers gave up a field goal on the next Whitewater possession and the score was 24-14 at half.

“We never changed our thought process on how we called the game,” Moseley said. “We kept with what we were doing.”

Whitewater defender brings down junior running back Cole Gilley close to the goal line. Gilley accounted for 129 of the team’s 301 rushing yards against Whitewater.

Aelise Gagliano
Whitewater defender brings down junior running back Cole Gilley close to the goal line. Gilley accounted for 129 of the team’s 301 rushing yards against Whitewater.

On the opening possession of the second half, the Panthers had a 12-play drive, but only gained 41 yards and settled for a field goal, which cut the score to 24-17. Whitewater answered with an 8-play drive, in which Ali took the last six carries, including his 3-yard touchdown that increased the Wildcat lead to 31-17.

With 2:10 left in the third quarter, the Panthers looked to stay in the game with a 6-play, 63-yard drive in which Prowant scored on a 4-yard run to bring the Panthers within seven. However, the Wildcats wouldn’t just score on their next drive, but convert a 2-point attempt, extending the score to 39-24.

“I knew we would be chasing that point,” Phillips said. “We had a breakdown on defense.”

The Panthers weren’t going to give up, and they marched 63 yards in just five plays and Brown scored on an 18-yard touchdown run. They followed the score with an onside kick, but an offside penalty forced a re-kick, and on the kick the Panthers chased down a Wildcat returner and forced a fumble. After recovering the fumble, Brown scored again, this time from 30 yards out.

However, a failed 2-point conversion left the score at 39-37. The Panther defense, however, stopped the Wildcat offense and forced a punt. The second play of the next Panther drive was a 21-yard run from Gilley, as the Panthers had one last drive to take home the victory.

“We knew we could run the ball on them,” Moseley said. “We just tried to speed the tempo up a little bit.”

The Panthers were able to get to the Whitewater 1-yard line. On the next play, they seemed to score, but a false start penalty pushed the ball to the 6-yard line and negated the touchdown. With 23 seconds left, the Panthers planned to spike the ball and bring out sophomore Michael Lantz to kick the game winning field goal.

However, a muffed snap and a confusing call from the referees resulted in a 94-yard fumble return touchdown for Whitewater, and the game ended in a 45-37 victory for the Wildcats.

“If we win out, our chances to win the region are very good,” Phillips said. “We still control our own destiny.”

The loss put Starr’s Mill at 3-4 on the season, 2-1 in the region. Whitewater improved to 5-2, also 2-1 in the region. Up next for the Panthers is the Battle of the Bubble against rival McIntosh. The Chiefs hold a 3-3 record, but sit at 0-2 in the region. The annual rivalry game at 7:30 p.m. this Friday in Panther Stadium.