Loaded Panther backfield runs over region rival

Rilee Stapleton, Staff Writer

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The 2016 edition of the “Battle of the Bubble” between Starr’s Mill High School and McIntosh High school took place Friday night in Panther Stadium. All of the Panthers’ 379 yards came on the ground in a 28-7 victory over the Chiefs, while McIntosh could only muster 177 yards as the Panther defense impressed in Starr’s Mill’s third region win.

“It’s good to know we can give [the ball] to anyone,” DeLuca said. “Whoever we give it to, can score at any moment.”

Gilley and fellow junior running back Nick Brown led the way for the Panther backfield. Gilley ran the ball 21 times for 137 yards and Brown had 136 yards on 21 carries. Both running backs scored once and freshman Khalen Sims and junior Mitch Prowant provided the other two scores.

For McIntosh, junior Bradley Ector picked up only 35 yards on six carries, but scored the only Chief touchdown of the game. Senior quarterback Zach Sanders was 7 of 11 with 111 yards and an interception, and his leading receiver was sophomore Dane Kinamon, who had 52 yards on two catches.

Junior running back Cole Gilley races past the McIntosh defense during Friday night’s 28-7 victory. Gilley ran for 137 yards against the Chiefs, becoming the first running back in the region to pass 1,000 rushing yards this season.

Aelise Gagliano
Junior running back Cole Gilley races past the McIntosh defense during Friday night’s 28-7 victory. Gilley ran for 137 yards against the Chiefs, becoming the first running back in the region to pass 1,000 rushing yards this season.

“[We] were [all] ticked off [after last week’s loss to Whitewater], we just really wanted a win,” DeLuca said. “And because it’s a region rivalry, it has a little more emphasis.”

The game started with the Starr’s Mill offense on the field, and they pounded the ball down the field immediately. The 12-play, 79-yard drive ended with Prowant beating the Chief defense for a 27-yard touchdown. The Panthers used the opening possession to take a 7-0 lead with 6:49 left in the first quarter.

McIntosh’s first offensive play was a 15-yard run from sophomore Zach Seymour, but the Chiefs were forced to punt four plays later. The Panthers didn’t take as long on their second drive, and a quick 4-play drive was the result of Gilley’s 54-yard touchdown run. The Panthers now held a 14-point lead against their cross-town rival.

“We have to move one step at a time,” Brown said. “We had to fix our mistakes from last game and move on.”

The next Chief drive was short-lived as Sanders threw an interception on the third play of the drive. However, the Panthers couldn’t turn the interception into points, as sophomore kicker Michael Lantz missed a field goal.

With 9:07 left in the first half, the Chiefs had the ball at their own 20-yard line. It only took McIntosh six plays to go 80 yards for the touchdown. The score came on a 22-yard run from Ector, and cut the deficit to 14-7.

The Panthers used the last seven minutes of the half to go 68 yards in 13 plays. Brown was able to find the endzone from seven yards out to build the Panther lead to 21-7 before halftime.

“[The offensive line] has definitely grown a lot,” DeLuca said. “They have gotten on their blocks a lot better.”

Junior running back Nick Brown shrugs off a defender against McIntosh on the way to his 136-yard performance. The Panthers totaled 379 rushing yards against the Chiefs.

Aelise Gagliano
Junior running back Nick Brown shrugs off a defender against McIntosh on the way to his 136-yard performance. The Panthers totaled 379 rushing yards against the Chiefs.

McIntosh opened the second half with a quick three-and-out, and punted the ball to the Panthers. Following the punt, the Panthers marched 54 yards in nine plays to score the final touchdown of the night. The 5-minute drive featured runs from all four running backs, and was finished by an 8-yard rush from Sims.

Both teams traded possessions for the rest of the game, but neither put any points on the board. Starr’s Mill’s final drive of the night was an 18-play, 74-yard sequence, but they ran the remaining nine minutes off the clock to preserve the 21-point victory.

“We knew we had to get a win,” junior running back Cole Gilley said. “We knew we had to come out with a full head of steam and get the win.”

After their victory, the Panthers hold a 4-4 record, but they boast a 3-1 record in the region. The Chiefs are now 3-4, and have lost all three of their region games. The Panthers have an extra week to prepare for the team currently at the top of the region, Riverdale.

The 6-1 Raiders face the Whitewater Wildcats while the Panthers are on bye. But the following week, however, the Raiders come to Panther Stadium for a huge contest with potentially the region championship on the line. The Oct. 28 game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. in Panther Stadium.