Seizing the season

Panther football taking nothing for granted


Annika Pepper

Starr’s Mill football team runs out on the field in their season opener against the East Coweta Indians. Since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a nationwide quarantine, many questioned if fall sports would even happen. Panther football continued to practice and grind in order to prepare for any chance of a season, seizing every opportunity and taking nothing for granted.

The single quality that has taken over the world in this day and age is fear. As the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll across the nation, sports have not been spared. From the first initial shutdown in March to now, things are in pure disarray.

While sports have been allowed to resume under certain circumstances, the conditions have overwhelmed many schools. High schools and colleges across the nation have made the decision to pull the cord on fall sports. Regardless, Starr’s Mill has been set on competing across all sports this school year. The football program has even embraced this opportunity.

I think as a country we took a lot of things for granted before all this happened.

— head coach Chad Phillips

“We’re very happy about the opportunity,” head coach Chad Phillips said. “You look around the country, and a lot of people are getting their seasons’ zapped. I just think we need an opportunity, and I think the boys understand that…I think as a country we took a lot of things for granted before all this happened.”

When the pandemic first struck the world in a significant shutdown, spring football training was supposed to begin. Despite not being able to meet officially, this did not deter any players. They proceeded to condition themselves, going to private gyms, home exercises, and even meeting to play 7-on-7.

Once school sports were given the green light to meet again on June 8, the football team wasted no time. They began working together in heats to begin team conditioning. The team kept working, going straight into football-esque drills and practices all through July.

Off the field, the COVID-19 pandemic was still raging across the nation. Numbers were rising fast. As the start for fall sports approached, schools grew increasingly uncertain. Many questions were being raised as the start of the school year and fall athletics approached.

Let’s bust our rear end and see what happens.

— head coach Chad Phillips

How long would it be until the fall sports were shut down in its entirety? The GHSA answered this question by continuing to revise their guidelines and do whatever they could to keep fall sports active. Several teams called off football entirely, leaving the landscape fragmented, but not the Panthers.

“Everything about the way we live has been altered by this pandemic,” Phillips said. “For us to have the opportunity to go out there and compete, play together, and be a family on that field together and represent this school, and represent this community, and represent everybody who’s ever attended Starr’s Mill, it’s good. I hope we continue to play. Let’s bust our rear end and see what happens.”

If last night’s 21-20 overtime loss to AAAAAAA East Coweta is any indication, the months of hard work Panther football has put in is going to serve them well. They proved that they are a team of fighters, a team willing to overcome doubt and fear.

As the late Vince Lombardi said, “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

The Panthers return home on Sept. 11 to host Mt. Zion. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.