Tigers aren’t so scary

Panthers easily handle Harris County in first round of playoffs


Annika Pepper

Senior Kalen Sims breaks free from a Tigers defender and looks to score. Sims redeemed himself after last years’ injury against New Hampstead, rushing for 160 yards and two touchdowns.

Ben Barkley, Sports Editor

Coming off a historic fourth-straight region championship, the Panthers started the state playoffs against Harris County. A one-sided game throughout, Starr’s Mill prevailed, winning 28-7.

Annika Pepper
Senior Hunter Lawson prepares for a new play under center. Lawson ran for 10 yards on three carries and a touchdown, while also throwing for 38 yards and a touchdown.

“It feels good to move on this year,” head coach Chad Phillips said. “This is a great group of kids who love each other and love playing for their school.”

Starr’s Mill had another amazing game offensively, accumulating 308 total yards. Leading the way once again was senior Kalen Sims, who rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns. 

Senior Ben Bodne ran for 81 yards on 16 carries, and senior Hunter Lawson ran for 10 yards and a touchdown, while also throwing for 38 yards and a touchdown to junior Cole Bishop. 

Harris County had less success, only totaling 163 yards in the game. Senior Davion Mahone led the way, rushing for 45 yards while also completing eight passes for 54 yards. Senior Tailique Williams ran for 40 yards and the team’s only touchdown.

“This win feels real good,” Sims said. “We’re gonna enjoy this over the weekend, but then we’re gonna come back on Monday ready to work.”

This is a great group of kids who love each other and love playing for their school.”

— head coach Chad Phillips

The Tigers started out strong to begin the game, marching down deep into Panther territory. However, they left the drive scoreless as junior Craig Suber missed a field goal, giving the Panthers the ball. 

Starr’s Mill started slow on offense and gave the ball back to the Tigers. Moments later, junior Vee Holcomb recovered a fumble, regaining possession for Starr’s Mill.. The Panthers kept the ball into the end of the quarter, keeping the score locked at zero at the end of one.

Lawson found Bishop in the end zone on a 25-yard pass to begin the second quarter to make the score 7-0. At this point, the Panther defense took over, not allowing anything from the Tiger offense. 

Scoring continued to be a priority for the Panthers as Sims raced his way into the endzone from 14 yards out to increase the lead to 14-0. 

The Panthers also had a chance to increase the lead at the end of the quarter, but junior Connor Marke missed a field goal as time expired, making the score 14-0 at halftime.  

“I’ve grown in confidence a lot this season,” Lawson said. “I’m loving throwing the long ball now, and I love the receivers that I get to throw it to.”

The offense continued to fire on all cylinders for the Panthers after halftime, as Sims powered his way into the endzone on a two-yard run to increase the lead to 21-0 Starr’s Mill. 

Starr’s Mill also continued to excel on the defensive side, forcing the Tigers to settle for short runs and quick three and outs. This continued throughout the quarter, keeping the score at 21-0 at the end of the quarter. 

“I came into this game still feeling the pain of seeing my team out there and me getting injured,” Sims said. “This year I made sure to come out and play my game and make sure I stay injury free, and we came out with a win.”

Harris County finally found the endzone with six minutes left in the fourth as Williams scored from the five yard line to put the Tigers on the board 21-7.

However, the Panthers answered right back as Lawson ran in ten yards for himself to increase the lead to28-7. Both teams slowed the pace after that, giving the Panthers a round one victory 28-7.

“[Harris County] is a good young football team,” Phillips said. “They’re gonna be a threat in our new region for years to come.”

This win gives the Panthers a second round matchup against the Kell High School Longhorns, the number three seed from Region 7-AAAAA who defeated Columbia High School 48-32. Last time these two teams faced in the state playoffs, the results were not ideal for the Panthers. However, look for the Panthers to play hard and aggressive with the third round in sights.

Starr’s Mill takes the field against Kell on Nov. 22 in Panther Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.