Vengeful Panthers crush Wildcats


Katie Linkner

Senior quarterback Joey DeLuca is dragged down by a Wildcat defender. DeLuca completed three of his seven passes for 107 yards, while also rushing for 40 yards and a score.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

A season ago, the Panthers were only a couple yards away from beating Whitewater, but a fumbled snap cost them the game. This year, however, the Panthers eagerly waited for their shot at revenge, and didn’t waste their chance to return the favor. Both teams started slow, but the Panthers pulled away through the final three quarters and defeated the Wildcats 43-21.

“Our kids were humbled a little [last week],” head coach Chad Phillips said. “We learned that when things don’t go your way the first time, you go back and do them better the next time.”

Katie Linkner
Sophomore running back Kalen Sims runs after receiving the handoff from DeLuca. Sims contributed to the backfield that ran for over 300 yards against Whitewater.

The Starr’s Mill offense came into this game averaging 296.6 rushing yards per game, and 70 more yards per game through the air. However, they topped both of these averages against Whitewater. Seniors Nick Brown and Mitch Prowant led a Panther backfield that picked up 379 total rushing yards, while senior quarterback Joey DeLuca completed three passes for 107 yards. Brown ran for 137 yards and two scores, while Prowant carried the ball 23 times, gaining 102 yards and three touchdowns.

Sophomore dual-threat quarterback Maddox Mueller steered the Wildcat offense, throwing for 139 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, while also rushing for 83 yards. Sophomore running back Miles Montgomery ran the ball nine times for 78 yards and a touchdown. Mueller’s favorite receiver was junior Hunter Williams, who hauled in a 69-yard touchdown.

“My mind set this week was finish. Just finish the game,” Brown said.

Whitewater started the game on offense, but it only lasted two plays. Mueller scrambled down the sideline and had a 22-yard gain before he fumbled on the Panthers 44-yard line, and Starr’s Mill recovered. After six plays, the Panthers moved down to the Whitewater 32-yard line, but with junior kicker Michael Lantz out due to injury, they were forced to go for it on fourth down. DeLuca dropped back to pass but couldn’t find any receivers. Whitewater took over after the turnover on downs.

Despite making a stop on defense, the Wildcats failed to move the ball on offense. A quick three-and-out brought the Panther offense back on the field. Starr’s Mill used the next seven minutes to slowly march down the field. Of the 15 plays on their drive, 14 were runs, with Brown ending the drive on a 2-yard touchdown run. Without Lantz, the Panthers went for two, and converted to take an 8-0 lead early in the second quarter.

“[The offensive line] was outstanding,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, I wouldn’t have gotten any of those yards without them.”

Once again, Whitewater only managed a quick drive, but this time it was due to an interception from sophomore Panther Joey Hunter. Starting from their own 35-yard line, the Panthers went 65 yards in five plays, but this time it was Prowant who finished off the drive. After another successful 2-point conversion, Starr’s Mill led 16-0 with 6:50 until halftime.

Whitewater’s offense finally began to move the ball, and did so over a 13-play, 65-yard drive. They capped it off with a touchdown run from five yards out to cut into the Panther lead. Starr’s Mill didn’t add any points in the remaining minutes, and the score at halftime was 16-7.

Katie Linkner
Senior Cole Gilley runs up the middle of the field. Gilley, who led the Panthers in rushing yards and touchdowns last year, left the game early due to a recurring ankle injury.

“We played hard,” Phillips said. “We made plays when we needed to.”

The Panthers came right out of the locker room following halftime and put together a 6-play, 70-yard series that extended their lead. Throughout the drive the Panthers distributed the ball between multiple players, but Prowant received the final carry of the drive, scoring once more. The 2-point attempt failed, but the Panthers still led 22-7.

Neither team scored on the next two drives, as the Wildcats punted and Starr’s Mill answered with a turnover-on-downs. Following those drives, Whitewater manufactured another scoring drive, but not a long one. On the second play of the series, Montgomery broke off a 51-yard touchdown to bring the Wildcats within six, 22-14.

“We just have to play Panther-brand football,” Brown said. “We have to go out and execute.”

Starr’s Mill answered when they needed to, and didn’t let Whitewater back into the game. An 8-play, 64-yard drive was finished off by Brown, who put the Panthers up 29-14 with his 5-yard score. The two teams again stalled, however, after the score. Whitewater punted, giving the Panthers an opportunity to close out the game for good, but they lost a fumble. Needing a score, the Wildcats only managed a turnover-on-downs.

Starr’s Mill then broke the streak with another touchdown from Prowant, blowing the game wide open at 36-14. Both teams then traded one more score each, and the Panthers captured a revenge-filled 43-21 victory.

“We’re back to controlling our own destiny,” Phillips said. “We just have to take care of us.”

There was a mix up in the region standings this week, with many close games between the region opponents. Starr’s Mill’s next opponent, McIntosh, squared with Fayette County in an overtime thriller. The Tigers jumped out to a 21-0 lead, but the Chiefs then scored 35 unanswered points, before allowing Fayette County to score the final 20 points of the game. Fayette County earned the win in overtime, ending McIntosh’s undefeated season.

Griffin, who defeated the Panthers last week, played in a tight matchup against Morrow, but managed to pull out a narrow 21-14 victory. After beating Whitewater by 22 points, the Panthers hold the tiebreaker if the season came down to another three-way tie. If they manage to win their final three games, the Panthers will be crowned region champions for the second year in a row. The first of their next three games is against McIntosh on Oct 13. The away game will kickoff at 7:30 p.m.