Battle of the Bubble lives up to its name

Missed field goal helps Panthers steal 36-35 victory from Chiefs


Shelby Foster

Senior Charlie Mizzell brings down a McIntosh player. The Panther defense struggled against the Chiefs, giving up 35 points to their cross-town rival.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

In the annual Battle of the Bubble matchup with the McIntosh Chiefs, Starr’s Mill narrowly defeated their cross-town rival 36-35. The two teams were very evenly matched, as the Chiefs barely out-gained the Mill in total yardage, 444-430, but the Panthers were still able to walk away victorious.

Shelby Foster
Sophomore Kalen Sims celebrates a touchdown with senior offensive lineman Endrit Hoti. Hoti and Sims contributed to a backfield that accumulated 354 rushing yards.

“I’m proud of our kids,” head coach Chad Phillips said. “They battled back through a lot of adversity.”

Five different Panthers scored the five different rushing touchdowns for Starr’s Mill. Leading the running back committee was sophomore Kalen Sims, rushing for 141 yards on only eight attempts. Senior Mitch Prowant added 140 yards on 11 carries to go with his touchdown. Senior quarterback Joey DeLuca only threw five passes, but completed three of them for a total of 73 yards.

McIntosh’s offense was more balanced, picking up 328 rushing yards, and 116 passing yards. Senior running back Bradley Ector tore through the Panther defense for 173 yards and four touchdowns on 20 rushes. Junior quarterback Dane Kinamon dropped back 13 times, completing 11 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.

“[McIntosh] played hard and they came prepared,” Phillips said. “I’m just glad we came out with a win.”

McIntosh received the opening kickoff, but failed to take advantage. On the third play of the drive, Kinamon completed a pass to junior Ryan Cate, who fumbled when he was tackled. The Panthers recovered at the 31-yard line but moved backward on multiple penalties. On the fifth play of the drive, the Panthers faced fourth down. Still without their star kicker junior Michael Lantz, Starr’s Mill tried to gain a first down. However, DeLuca threw an incomplete pass and the Chiefs’ offense took over again.

Ector started McIntosh’s next drive with a 51-yard run, bringing the Chiefs to the Starr’s Mill 20-yard line. Four plays later, Ector received another handoff from six yards outside of the endzone, and weaved his way for six points. After the PAT, McIntosh led 7-0.

“We came out in the first half playing sloppy,” senior Nick Brown said. “You could tell they wanted it more than us.”

Contrary to the quick scoring drive from McIntosh, Starr’s Mill used a 12-play, 85-yard drive to even the score. Eleven of the plays were on the ground, including the touchdown that was scored by sophomore Karsen Kalen. The Panthers attempted a two-point conversion and succeeded, taking the lead over the Chiefs 8-7 with 8:37 left in the first quarter.

Our defense started playing great, and we pulled through.”

— senior quarterback Joey DeLuca

McIntosh used the next four minutes of the first quarter on a 9-play 48-yard drive. Ector was quiet for most of the drive, but came through when the offense needed him, scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run to put the Chiefs back on top, 14-8.

The next Starr’s Mill drive started slow. After two short runs, the Panthers faced third-and-two. Prowant then exploded for a 52-yard touchdown run. Thanks to the two-point conversion on the previous drive, the Panthers gained the lead after kicking the extra point, 15-14.

The Chiefs then took over with 5:41 left until halftime, and used their time wisely. They covered 64 yards in just seven plays, and scored with 2:14 left to spare. After Kinamon’s touchdown pass, the Chiefs led 21-15.

In the final two minutes, both teams traded scores again, and the Chiefs led 28-22 at halftime. This was the first time since the Starr’s Mill win over Northgate that the Panthers trailed going into the break.

“We were nervous going into halftime,” DeLuca said. “Our defense started playing great, and we pulled through.”

The Panthers began the third quarter with their foot on the gas pedal. Brown capped off a quick 4-play drive with a 27-yard touchdown run. The Mill stole the lead back from the Chiefs, and once again, McIntosh responded. McIntosh drove 75 yards on 16 plays, chewing 7:30 off of the clock. Ector finally ended the long drive with a 34-yard sprint to the end zone. The lead again switched, with the Chiefs up 35-29.

Starr’s Mill answered the near 8-minute drive with another quick, 4-play series. Sims started the drive with a 33-yard burst to the Starr’s Mill 44-yard line, and two plays later DeLuca bursted past the Chief defense for a 32-yard touchdown scramble. The extra point gave the Panthers a 36-35 lead going into the final quarter.

Shelby Foster
A Panther defender brings down a Chief receiver. After defeating McIntosh, the Panthers take a 7-1 record into their bye week.

“In the second half we took over the line of scrimmage and we played well,” Phillips said.

The Chief offense finally stalled, and ended a streak of 10 consecutive scores between the two teams. Despite putting together an 8-play drive, McIntosh was forced to punt. Starr’s Mill then chewed the next four minutes off of the clock, but a turnover-on-downs gave the Chiefs one last chance.

McIntosh drove down to the Panther 17-yard line, and lined up for a field goal to take the lead. However, a false start backed up the Chiefs five more yards. Now, with the entire stadium holding their breath, McIntosh squared up a 39-yard field goal. Many of the Panther players flashed back to their loss against Griffin as they watched the kick sail wide left, but this time the players from the Mill celebrated as the offense walked on the field to kneel the remaining minute off of the clock.

“It feels good to be 4-0 against McIntosh,” Brown said. “But we have to come back next week and keep working hard.”

The Chiefs have dropped two consecutive region games to Fayette County and Starr’s Mill, putting their record at 5-2, and 1-2 in the region. Next up for McIntosh is a visit to Griffin who boasts a 7-1 record. The Bears are coming off of a 37-13 beatdown of Fayette County. That game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 20.

The Panthers have the week off before returning to action against Riverdale. The Raiders’ most recent game was a 20-14 loss to Morrow, but they play Whitewater before their matchup with the Mill. The Panthers look to rest up before attempting to improve upon their 7-1 record. As for Riverdale, they look to play spoiler to a Panther team hungry for a region championship. The game is at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 in Riverdale.