Hard loss on the Battlefield

Panthers end non-region play with tough loss against Patriots


Bre Kozusko

Senior Patriot Rashad Amos runs the ball against the Panthers. Amos, a Western Kentucky University commit, ran for 84 yards on 11 carries and three touchdowns.

Ben Barkley, Sports Editor

Forty-three points a game. Ten points allowed in the last three games. An undefeated 3-0 record. These are what Starr’s Mill had to contend with Friday night as they traveled to play the Sandy Creek Patriots. 

It was obvious we were a little out-manned, but the coaches had a great plan and the boys executed.

— head coach Chad Phillips

Despite being held to a season-low point total, the Patriots limited the Panthers to only a field goal and a touchdown, giving Starr’s Mill their second loss of the season, 28-10.

“We challenged our guys to play hard every single play,” head coach Chad Phillips said. “It was obvious we were a little out-manned, but the coaches had a great plan and the boys executed.”

Running was back to being the priority for the Panthers in the game, rushing for 164 yards. Leading the way for the first time this season was senior Kalen Sims, who rushed for 82 yards on 15 carries. Fellow seniors Karsen Kalen, Hunter Lawson, and Ben Bodne also contributed 41, 22, and 14 yards, respectively. From the air, Lawson threw for 26 yards and a touchdown to senior Owen Phillips.

The run game was also Sandy Creek’s style of choice in the game, as senior Rashad Amos, a Western Kentucky University commit, ran for 84 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Matthew Williams threw for 214 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Senior Brian Branch, a University of Alabama commit, led the way in receiving yards, catching three passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.

“The energy was way up in this game,” Lawson said. “Everyone was excited to be out on the field. That was the first time I had seen that all year.”

Both teams came out of the gates slow on offense, with two quick three and outs to start the first quarter. However, Sandy Creek got on the board shortly after as Branch caught a 25-yard pass to make the score 7-0 early.

Bre Kozusko
Junior Nate Kearns returns a kickoff for a big gain. Kearns had five returns for 141 yards in the loss.

Right after that score, junior Nate Kearns busted a deep return to the 40 yard line to set the Panthers up in great field position. The offense slowly pushed the ball all the way to the Patriot five yard line to end the first quarter at 7-0 Sandy Creek.

“Everyone hates to lose,” Bodne said. “But no one has played [Sandy Creek] this hard all season, and I know that everyone played hard, and this is a good sign for the rest of the season.”

Senior Christian Castillo booted a 23-yard field goal to begin the second quarter, making the score 7-3. However, Sandy Creek came out of the gates hot, as Amos scored his first of three touchdowns to increase the Patriot lead to 14-3.

The Panthers slowly marched down the field on the next drive, but could not translate that into a score, punting the ball away with three minutes left in the half. On the next possession, Sandy Creek let the clock run out, content with a 14-3 lead at halftime.

“We played the number one team in the state [in 4A],” Phillips said. “I’m proud of the way the boys fought tonight.”

Once again, Sandy Creek came out of the gates hot to begin the third quarter, as Amos scored his second touchdown four minutes in, increasing the lead to 21-3. Starr’s Mill tried to march down the field once more, but once again the Panthers could not capitalize and finish the drive off with a score.

The coaches just told us to play as hard as we possibly can, and I think we did a good job at executing that.

— senior Ben Bodne

Sandy Creek continued their firepower of an offense, as Amos scored his third and final touchdown of the day as time expired to make the score 28-3 at the end of the third quarter.

“Last week we had no fight in us,” Bodne said. “The coaches just told us to play as hard as we possibly can, and I think we did a good job at executing that.”

The fourth quarter was slow for both teams until halfway through, as the Panthers finally found  senior Owen Phillips in the endzone, making the score 28-10. The comeback was too little too late, as Sandy Creek kept the ball for the rest of the drive. 

Sandy Creek tried to score again after calling a timeout with 13 seconds left instead of kneeing the football, but the Panthers stopped them, starting a brawl on the field after the game. Once players were separated, the Patriots remained undefeated with the 28-10 win.

“This loss is something we can definitely build on,” Phillips said. “It makes us excited to get going on our region schedule.”

The Patriots now boast a perfect 4-0 record. They will travel to LaGrange to take on Troup County in their first region matchup of the season next Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Starr’s Mill now has a 2-2 record as region play gets underway. They will travel to Jonesboro to take on the 2-2 Jonesboro High School Cardinals. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.