Panthers open region play with loss to Jonesboro


Annika Pepper

Senior Kalen Sims runs the ball against Jonesboro. Sims had another strong performance on the ground, totaling 119 yards on 25 carries, and one touchdown.

Ben Barkley, Sports Editor

Coming off a tough loss against Sandy Creek to end non-region play, the Panthers opened up region play against the Jonesboro High School Cardinals. A back and forth game throughout the first three quarters, the Cardinals eventually pulled away in the fourth quarter, giving Starr’s Mill a 21-14 loss.

All we can do is go back to work, and that’s what we’ll do.”

— head coach Chad Phillips

“We’ve got to pay attention to the details,” head coach Chad Phillips said. “We can’t not be sharp with the caliber of people that we play against.”

Starr’s Mill stuck with what’s worked for them — a firepower run game that amassed 241 of their 277 total yards. Leading the way was senior Kalen Sims, who rushed for 119 yards on 25 carries, and scored his first touchdown of the season. Senior Ben Bodne ran for 83 yards on 20 carries for a touchdown.   

Jonesboro relied more on the passing game, throwing for 149 yards with two different quarterbacks. Senior Tramir Alexis threw for 75 yards and added a rushing touchdown. Senior Keyshawn Early threw for 68 yards and contributed a touchdown from the ground. 

The first quarter started slow for both teams, as neither team could gain an advantage on the offensive side of the ball. This continued throughout the quarter, keeping the score at zero at the end of the first quarter.

Annika Pepper
Junior Wes Haney tackles an opposing Cardinal. Haney’s return adds to a solid defense that should be able to hold down other opponents in the region.

As the second quarter got underway, Jonesboro started to find a groove on offense, with senior Isaiah Rice finding the endzone on a short run. The Cardinals led 7-0 early in the second. However, the Panthers started to generate some offense as well, giving the ball to Bodne on a short four-yard run to tie the score at seven. Play was slowed down after that, keeping the score locked at seven headed into halftime.

“We can’t give up that many plays and expect to win,” Phillips said. “All we can do is go back to work, and that’s what we’ll do.”

Defense was made a priority for the Panthers as the second half got underway, forcing three and outs for Jonesboro. Offensively, Starr’s Mill marched down field, and capped the drive off with a score by Sims, his first touchdown of the year, to give the Panthers the lead 14-7.

Jonesboro found more success from the second quarter on offense, as Early found the end zone to tie the game once again. Both teams went back to slow play after that, keeping the score locked at 14.

Starr’s Mill made a big run on offense to start the fourth quarter, getting in field goal range for a chance to take the lead. However, junior Christian Castillo missed the field goal just right, giving the ball back to Jonesboro. The Panther defense forced a quick three and out and keeping hope alive for some late-game heroics.

After another chance to increase the lead ended with no points on the scoreboard, Jonesboro marched down the field and scored with Noah, giving Jonesboro the lead 21-14. The Panthers had one more chance to tie the game, gaining easy yards from the ground to get to the 50-yard line. 

However, on a critical 4th and 10, a Lawson pass to senior Owen Phillips was ruled incomplete, despite coaches and fans pleading that it was pass interference. Jonesboro ran down the clock, giving the Panthers a 21-14 loss.

“We’ve got to tackle better in space,” Phillips said. “We’ve also got to get healed up a little bit.”

Junior Wes Haney returned after missing the last two games with an injury. However, senior Ardit Hoti did not play and freshman William Yarbrough played despite breaking a bone in his hand.  

Jonesboro now has a 3-2 record, with a 1-0 region record. They play next week at Whitewater.

This loss puts the Panthers at 2-3 on the season, with an 0-1 region record. Next week might be the biggest region game on the schedule. Griffin, who beat Whitewater 41-14 Friday, is undefeated at 5-0 and looking like early favorites for region champions

However, don’t count the Panthers out just yet, as the team will be looking for revenge after losing their first region game since September 29, 2017. 

The team returns to Panther Stadium to take on Griffin next week. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.