Gameday Takeaways, Week 14
Three notes from the Panthers’ season finale
December 12, 2019
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.
The offense struggled all game long
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.
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.
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.
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. 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!