End of the road

Demons halt Panthers’ phenomenal season with semifinal rout

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Annika Pepper

Sophomore Barrett Schmidlkofer (right) and junior Cole Bishop (left) look downfield during the AAAAA semifinal game against Warner Robins at the Mac in Warner Robins, Georgia. The Warner Robins Demons steamrolled the Panthers, swiftly taking control of the game and advancing to the state championship 55-3. On defense, Bishop snagged one interception for his fourth pick on the season, while on offense he caught three passes for 15 yards. The Panther defense gave up 435 yards of total offense to Warner Robins despite average only 262.8 yards allowed per game this season.

Daniel Stackhouse, Staff Writer

A phenomenal season, kept alive by a thrilling finish the week prior, has come to an end. Starr’s Mill traveled down to McConnell-Talbert Stadium to face off against the Warner Robins Demons in one of the two AAAAA semifinal games. Warner Robins went on to trample over the Panthers, taking the semifinal 55-3 and punching their ticket to the 5A state championship.

[The boys] never quit playing, and if those guys can do that for the rest of their lives, success is always around the corner.”

— head coach Chad Phillips

Despite controlling the game clock for over 30 minutes, Starr’s Mill struggled to get any momentum going. The Panthers gained a total of only 265 total yards on offense, including 49 carries for 219 yards. Senior Ben Bodne was the highlight of the run game with 17 carries for 162 yards. 

The passing game also saw many struggles. Senior Hunter Lawson went 5-for-15, accumulating only 46 yards, with zero touchdowns and an interception. The team also lost three fumbles, two of which were returned for touchdowns by the Demons.

“The lesson to be learned in this is there’s going to be failure, there’s going to be adversity you have to battle through in life,” head coach Chad Phillips said. “[The boys] never quit playing, and if those guys can do that for the rest of their lives, success is always around the corner.”

Warner Robins was on fire against the Panthers. They scored more points than the Panthers had given up against any opponent all season. They accumulated a total of 435 offensive yards. Leading the charge was junior quarterback Jalen Addie, gaining a total of 240 yards on his own. He scored two rushing and passing touchdowns each, and threw an interception.

Starting with the ball, and barely two minutes into the game, Adden threw a quick five-yard touchdown to senior Ty’larrious Carr for Warner Robins’ first touchdown of the game. Once the Starr’s Mill got the ball, the Demons defense was all over the Panthers, immediately forcing a three and out. A bad punt set Warner Robins up near midfield. Three plays later, Addie ran in for a 21-yard touchdown to take a 14-0 lead before the game clock even reached seven minutes.

Annika Pepper
Senior Ben Bodne runs over Warner Robins defenders. Bodne led Starr’s Mill in rushing with 17 carries for 162 yards out of the 265 yards Starr’s Mill accumulated.

After the Demon defense stuffed Starr’s Mill again, junior Johnathan Allen rushed in for an eight-yard touchdown for the Demons. Right as the Panthers started marching down the field, senior Kalen Sims fumbled the ball and Warner Robins recovered to end the first quarter. One quarter in and Warner Robins led Starr’s Mill 21-0.

“[Warner Robins is] a great team. We knew that coming in,” Bodne said. “We made so many mistakes, but I gotta give credit they are a great team, and we just really shot ourselves in the foot with the turnovers and the penalties.”

Into the second quarter, the Demons were stopped for the first time in the game. Despite the opportunity, Starr’s Mill did not do anything with it. On their next possession, Addie threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to junior Jahlen Rutherford. 

Later in the quarter, sophomore Colin Bartek recovered a punt for Starr’s Mill. This led to a 32-yard field goal by senior Christian Castillo to get the Panthers their first and only points of the game. 

Warner Robins tried to drive down the field for a score near the end of the half, but an interception by junior Cole Bishop halted the drive. Starr’s Mill started too far from the end zone get more points in the half, so the first half ended with Warner Robins a 28-3 lead.

“We just didn’t come out strong and they just started running, and we were already too far back behind to come back,” Bishop said. “We could have played better. They’re a really good team and we tried. We did our best.”

We made so many mistakes, but I gotta give credit they are a great team, and we just really shot ourselves in the foot with the turnovers and the penalties.”

— senior Ben Bodne

Lawson opened the second half with the passing game, only to be stuffed again. Addie once again ran in the end zone for a quick two yard touchdown. A few minutes later, Addie recovered a fumble for a 54-yard touchdown. All of that accumulated to the Demons increasing their lead to 42-3.

Senior James Smith rubbed salt into the wound with a five-yard touchdown early into the fourth quarter. A little while later, Starr’s Mill lost another fumble which Warner Robins returned for a 79-yard touchdown. The mercy rule clock soon struck with triple zeroes. Warner Robins took the semifinal 55-3, sending themselves to the AAAAA state championship.

With this loss the Panthers are officially eliminated from the playoffs. They will lose only a few pieces on defense and the offensive line. However, they will lose a lot of their skill players, including Sims, Bodne, and Lawson, who all totaled for 3,112 rushing yards and 36 rushing touchdowns this season. 

“[The seniors] saw a lot of good times, and it’s a shame it has to end on a negative night like this,” Phillips said. “But we gotta think back on all the positive things that they experienced and all the great memories that they’re gonna have for the rest of life.”

Starr’s Mill finishes their phenomenal football season with a 10-4 record. The Warner Robins Demons will go on to Georgia State Stadium and play against the Buford Wolves in the AAAAA state championship game this Friday. Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m.