Student section cheers on the Panther football team. “Gameday Takeaways” provides analysis of the most recent Friday Night Lights game, while also talking about key players that made the final score of the game possible. (Bekah Algaze)
Student section cheers on the Panther football team. “Gameday Takeaways” provides analysis of the most recent Friday Night Lights game, while also talking about key players that made the final score of the game possible.

Bekah Algaze

Gameday Takeaways

State playoffs

November 26, 2019

Students crowding into Panther Stadium. The smell of freshly grilled hot dogs in the air. The hooting and hollering of fans. That can only mean one thing — Friday Night Lights.

“Friday Night Lights sets the culture for this school,” head coach Chad Phillips said. “[Friday Night Lights] translates into the other sports, into the classroom, and it drives the culture of this school.”

You already know the final score of the big game. But what about the action that made that final score possible? This year, The Prowler looks to do just that, recapping big storylines and key players that made the result of the game what it was. 

“Friday nights are everything. Football is America’s favorite sport, and you see it in its purest form at the high school level,” Fayette County News Sports Editor Chris Dun said. “It’s about love of the game, not million dollar contracts and shoe endorsements. And it wouldn’t be complete without cheerleaders and marching bands. They make the whole package electric. There’s just nothing else like it.”

Be sure to check back weekly for key players and analysis from every game.

Warner+Robins+defender+takes+down+senior+Ben+Bodne+during+the+Panthers%E2%80%99+state+semifinal+game+against+the+Warner+Robins+Demons.+Bodne+highlighted+the+Panther+run+game+that+struggled+in+the+55-3+loss+to+the+Demons.+Bodne+accounted+for+over+half+the+team%E2%80%99s+offensive+yards%2C+carrying+the+ball+16+times+for+162+yards.+%E2%80%9CI%E2%80%99m+so+grateful+for+this+season%2C+and+my+teammates.+They+all+just+worked+so+hard+and+we+all+just+love+each+other%2C%E2%80%9D+Bodne+said.+%E2%80%9CI%E2%80%99m+really+proud+of+how+this+season+went.+I+wish+it+would+have+ended+differently%2C+but+we+still+played+as+hard+as+we+possibly+could.%E2%80%9D

Annika Pepper

Warner Robins defender takes down senior Ben Bodne during the Panthers’ state semifinal game against the Warner Robins Demons. Bodne highlighted the Panther run game that struggled in the 55-3 loss to the Demons. Bodne accounted for over half the team’s offensive yards, carrying the ball 16 times for 162 yards. “I’m so grateful for this season, and my teammates. They all just worked so hard and we all just love each other,” Bodne said. “I’m really proud of how this season went. I wish it would have ended differently, but we still played as hard as we possibly could.”

Gameday Takeaways, Week 14

Three notes from the Panthers’ season finale

Last week, the Panthers traveled down to the Mac Stadium in Warner Robins for their semifinal game against the Warner Robins Demons. Starr’s Mill looked to be outmatched, losing the game 55-3. Here are three takeaways from their final game of the season.

  1. The offense struggled all game long

The Panthers do not have many other well-known skill players returning other than sophomore Brandon Mathis, who had 47 carries for 347 yards and two touchdowns as the team’s fourth leading rusher.”

— Staff Writer Daniel Stackhouse

The run game that was so reliable all season seemed futile against the Demons. The major stat is that they only scored three points, the least the team has scored all season. They still rushed the ball for 219 yards, which isn’t too far off from their 273.1 average rushing yards per game this season. Despite that, the team’s inability to find the end zone all game was their downfall.

To rub salt into the wound, they will be losing many key skill players to graduation, including seniors Ben Bodne, Hunter Lawson, and Kalen Sims. Bodne and Sims both rushed for over 1,000 yards on the season. The Panthers do not have many other well-known skill players returning other than sophomore Brandon Mathis, who had 47 carries for 347 yards and two touchdowns as the team’s fourth leading rusher.

Despite losing their big skill players, they will still keep a good portion of their line, including juniors Joseph Rampey and Dalton Koth, both big and powerful linemen. Like the skill players, there will be a few linemen going, including senior Jeff Tiller, but with what they have, the line looks like it could stay strong next season and be there to make all the blocks necessary to keep the run game strong.

  1. Warner Robins was too much for the Panther defense

For most of the game, it looked like the Panther defense was simply outmatched by the Demons’ powerhouse of an offense. Warner Robins was able to amass 435 yards against the Panthers, way more than the Panthers’ average of 262.8 yards allowed per game. The Demons had the ability to score six offensive touchdowns despite only 14 minutes of possession.

The Demons had the ability to score six offensive touchdowns despite only 14 minutes of possession.”

— Staff Writer Daniel Stackhouse

Warner Robins has a huge amount of talent to work with. Their quarterback, junior Jalen Addie, has amassed 2,868 total yards with 27 total touchdowns, only seven interceptions, and a passer rating of 96.8. Along with him is a strong running game highlighted by junior Jahlen Rutherford and senior James Smith, who combined for 2,224 rushing yards and six touchdowns. With all this talent they had many tools that made it possible to dissect the Panther defense.

Good news is that many of the defensive starters will be returning for next season. Even though they will lose a couple seniors, many stars on the defense will return, including sophomores Micaiah Shaber and Barrett Schmidlkofer, and juniors Cole Bishop, Wes Haney, Jonathon Higle, and Vee Holcomb. This is a defense that has held opponents to 20.4 points per game, and forced 24 turnovers, which includes 14 interceptions. With all the young talent on this team, the defense is still looking as mighty as ever.

  1. Playing this strong Warner Robins team has its merits for next year

Warner Robins is a great football team. The game score proves that. It is not often that Starr’s Mill gets to play some of the best teams in the state. Not to throw shade at anybody Starr’s Mill has faced, but seeing this new level of competition can help the team see exactly what kind of teams they need to be able to beat to win it all.

Head coach Chad Phillips makes it a goal to play against strong competition just to get the team battle ready for the region.”

— Staff Writer Daniel Stackhouse

Head coach Chad Phillips makes it a goal to play against strong competition just to get the team battle ready for the region. Playing against teams like Dutchtown and Warner Robins gives Starr’s Mill an even better vision of how strong they would need to play for a state championship. There is so much that can be learned from a loss like this: playing strong competition can help them be even stronger for next season.

New region alignments should be able to help with that. Even though they will lose Jonesboro and Riverdale, they will keep Griffin and be joined by Northside Columbus, Northgate, a historically strong program, and Harris County, who the Panthers played in the first round of the playoffs. This change in competition will give Starr’s Mill different levels of competition that can benefit the team.

Looking toward next season

There is so much to be excited about when looking into next season. We will find out how the Panthers decide to fill their skill positions as well as adjust the offensive line. 

With the returning players on defense, there is hope that they continue to put up strong performances next year and prove themselves as a brick wall to any offense. Come next season, all of these mysteries will be solved, and I personally cannot wait until then.

Starr’s Mill finishes the season 10-4, making their mark as the third team to make to the state semifinals in school history. While Panther nation waits for next football season, swimming and region play in basketball will be going on the next couple of months. Come out and support your Panthers!

Sophomore+Brandon+Mathis+runs+into+an+open+lane.+Mathis+contributed+to+the+Panther+rushing+attack+with+eight+carries+for+41+yards.

Annika Pepper

Sophomore Brandon Mathis runs into an open lane. Mathis contributed to the Panther rushing attack with eight carries for 41 yards.

Gameday Takeaways, Week 13

Three notes from overtime thriller

Last week, Starr’s Mill continued their playoff run by hosting the Dutchtown Bulldogs, the No. 2 seed from Region 4-AAAAA. The Panthers pushed through an intense game to take a 25-24 victory in overtime. Here are three takeaways from the game.

  1. Offense proved their strength

If there was any time to prove the might of the Panther offense, it was against a team that only allowed 3.5 points per game through their two playoff games.”

— Staff Writer Daniel Stackhouse

If there was any time to prove the might of the Panther offense, it was against a team that only allowed 3.5 points per game through their two playoff games. The Panthers scored 25 points over Dutchtown’s defense. Starr’s Mill is only the third team Dutchtown has played all season to have scored more than 20 points.

The offense accumulated 320 yards on offense, 302 being through the run game. Both seniors Kalen Sims and Ben Bodne had 100+ yard games. Sims adding on with three touchdowns, and Bodne eclipsing 1,000 yards on the season.

Starr’s Mill also controlled over half an hour of game time. Everything on offense came together so the team could outlast the Bulldogs.

  1. Defense stood strong

Dutchtown couldn’t do anything against the Panther defense throughout the first half. The had even thrown an interception to junior Nate Kearns on their first drive. 

While the defense started to slip a little bit, they did not let the Bulldogs run away with the game. They made a strong red zone stand to send the game into overtime.

“[The game] was kind of like a replay of Kell a little bit,” defensive coordinator Jeff Schidlkofer said. “[We] kind of got our momentum [later in the game], had a great goal line stand to end the game to hold [Dutchtown] to a field goal.”

  1. A gutsy play call nearly ended the season

Deciding to go for it right outside the goal line to win the game was a very bold decision. However, it was a call that worked. Sims immediately rushed into the end zone to take the game. 

That was one of the most exciting finishes in Starr’s Mill history.”

— head coach Chad Phillips

“When the penalty moved the ball a yard and a half away from winning, the boys didn’t really have much to say on the fact than ‘have confidence’,” head coach Chad Phillips said. “We let [the boys] roll with it, we thought we had a great play call, and they executed. That was one of the most exciting finishes in Starr’s Mill history.”

The risk of ending the game had a humongous reward. Taking the risk worked, and the Panthers move into the AAAAA semifinals for the first time since 2010.

What to watch for this week

This team has proven they can overcome any team that comes their way. Everything about the team seems to be coming together. Warner Robins will be a difficult opponent, but with the kind of football Starr’s Mill has been playing, anticipate a competitive game.

Warner Robins will host Starr’s Mill this Friday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

Sophomore+Barrett+Schmidlkofer+looks+to+tackle+an+opposing+Tiger.+The+Panther+defense+had+one+of+their+better+performances+this+season%2C+only+allowing+163+total+yards.

Annika Pepper

Sophomore Barrett Schmidlkofer looks to tackle an opposing Tiger. The Panther defense had one of their better performances this season, only allowing 163 total yards.

Gameday Takeaways, Week 11

Three notes after dominant round one victory

Last week, the Panther football team kicked off the state playoffs against Harris County, the No. 4 seed from Region 1-AAAAA. The Panthers used last year’s first round upset as inspiration in a 28-7 win over the Tigers. Here are three notes from the contest.

  1. Sims with another strong performance

This time last season, senior Kalen Sims left the game early after a foot injury and was forced to watch his Panthers lose to New Hampstead. Last week, he got his revenge, rushing for 160 yards and two touchdowns.

“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.”

Besides Sims, senior Ben Bodne had another strong game as he rushed for 81 yards, while senior Hunter Lawson ran for 10 yards and a touchdown. The Starr’s Mill running back rotation is deep..

  1. Lawson breaking out the long ball

Speaking of Lawson, the long ball seemed to be his style in the victory as he threw for 38 yards on just two throws for a touchdown. We haven’t seen Lawson pull off the passing game since the Chapel Hill game, and it was a nice change of pace for the Panther offense.

“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.”

On the season, Lawson has 721 total yards, 265 of them coming from the ground and 456 of them coming from the air. 

  1. Defense had one of the best games of season

The Panther defense had one of its best games in the win over the Tigers, holding them to only 163 total yards. Considering this is only three more yards than what Sims had by himself, I’d say the defense more than did its job.

Through other great outings against Whitewater and McIntosh, the Panther defense has clicked at the right time.

What to watch for this week

Starr’s Mill has another tough outing for round two as they’ll face off against the Kell High School Longhorns, the No. 3 seed from Region 7-AAAAA. The last time these two teams met was in round two of the playoffs in 2016, and the odds did not end in the Panthers’ favor.

However, the Panthers have shocked a lot of people this year, which is their specialty. Expect a hard fought game from both teams and a close result in the end.

The Panthers stay in Panther Stadium to take on Kell this Friday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

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