The student-run online newspaper for Starr's Mill High School

Annika Pepper

Sophomore running back Greigh Joseph dives forward during the Panthers’ home region game against the Griffin Bears this past week. The entire team came together to pull off a solid 21-0 shutout to widen the gap within the region. Even though the Panther offense only accumulated a total of 217 yards, they scored 21 points for just the second time this season. Whether it be the value of maturity, an explosive defensive line, or the progression of the learning curve, here are three takeaways from this past week’s game.

Gameday Takeaways, Week 7

Three notes from big rivalry shutout

November 3, 2020

The rivalry between Griffin and Starr’s Mill is usually tight both on the field and on the scoreboard. Last week at Panther Stadium, however, Starr’s Mill had a clear edge over Griffin in a 21-0 shutout win. From the difference in maturity or progression of the learning curve, here are three takeaways from that stout win.

  1. Maturity matters

Yes, [Yarbrough] is green, but he is pragmatic and logical in the game.

— Sports Editor Daniel Stackhouse

Griffin is infamous for, despite having gobs of talent, lacking in discipline. The Panthers had an immense advantage in discipline and maturity over the Bears and it showed all game long. Griffin had seven penalties costing them 57 yards, compared to the Panthers’ three penalties for 35 yards. This includes one instance where the Griffin offense had back to back false start penalties.

Penalties put a damper on the Bears’ game, giving them unnecessary yardage to make up. Not only did penalties hurt them, but they two centers that were on the field for them botched several snaps to put them at a disadvantage.

Problems also persisted at the quarterback position. Griffin played two quarterbacks in the game, sophomore Gerrod Pope in the first half and freshman Jeff Davis in the second half. Both were clearly talented players. However, neither of them could give their offense a jolt of momentum, keeping them grounded and scoreless the entire night.

In contrast, you have the Panther offense led by sophomore quarterback Will Yarbrough. Yes, he is green, but he is pragmatic and logical in the game. He may not have the experience, but he uses the good amount of talent he does have and his solid game awareness to make smart decisions under center.

For instance, in his first touchdown run, there were no other options that he could go to. Yarbrough made the decision to go the open lane he had which resulted in a 47-yard touchdown run. Similarly in his second rushing touchdown, after a Griffin rusher barely missed him, he saw both sides of him being blocked, and made his way through the middle. These paramount well-made decisions gave the entire team the edge over Griffin.

  1. Defensive line blew up the trenches

Last week the unsung heroes of the game were undoubtedly the defensive line. Almost, if not all, attempts from Griffin were shut down. If there was a runner heading into the line of scrimmage, the d-line was there to knock them back and keep them to a mere 54 yards in 35 attempts.

I came here [and] the focus is around the whole team, and it just feels good to be around coaches who care.

— senior Cam Jones

There were too many weapons on that defensive line to be held back. Whether it be juniors Darrien Doster, Micaiah Shaber, and Barrett Schmidlkofer, or seniors Jackson Baxley, Cam Jones, and Andres Moc, or anybody else in rotation, they can and will get through any offensive line.

“We’re elite. I don’t feel like we can be stopped honestly by anybody,” Jones said. “Coming from Alabama, my defensive line wasn’t that good, and they didn’t really focus on the defensive line. I came here [and] the focus is around the whole team, and it just feels good to be around coaches who care.”

Every aspect of the defense is important, and this past week we saw the line state their case as to how significant they really are. Forcing a talented team like Griffin to lose 50 of their rushing yards and keep them to an average of 1.5 yards per carry is impressive, straight up. 

This line helped out a Panther defense that only allowed two plays that went 20 or more yards. Two. It speaks volumes for a defense that has put together four shutouts in seven games. This defense is something special and performances like this reinforce that claim again and again.

  1. The learning curve continues to progress

Seeing the Panther backfield play has not been a pretty experience. However, these faults have been exactly what they needed.

— Sports Editor Daniel Stackhouse

Struggles have plagued the offense game after game. Granted, this is a young group that is just finally getting adjusted to playing with a team and coaches with high expectations. Take Yarbrough for example. He was thrusted into the starting quarterback role as a sophomore, and sophomore Greigh Joseph was put in a similar position in the backfield. Not to mention that junior Brandon Mathis is adjusting to his role as one of the go to guys on the team.

Seeing the Panther backfield play has not been a pretty experience. However, these faults have been exactly what they needed. In the face of adversity, they have pushed themselves further to keep improving. Even though it was far from perfect, they made a big step with only their second game with 21 or more points this season.

Joseph and Mathis have been developing and settling into their roles as a new dynamic duo which has highlighted the Panthers’ traditional run-heavy offense. They combined for a solid game — 66 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. Both had some important gains that helped Starr’s Mill keep the advantage over Griffin.

“Obviously we’ve gotten a little better, but we’re still missing these tiny little details that if we just execute these tiny little details we’ll be so much better,” Yarbrough said. “This game I think we could have scored around 35-42 points on them if we just hit those tiny little things. But once we get these tiny little things down then we’ll be fine. We’ll have a really strong offense.”

Yarbrough too has made clear strides in his play. Most notably, he scored two flashy running touchdown runs. Both of those were risks, but they were the right calculated risks to take that helped him have one of his best games yet. There is still work to be done, but what the backfield was able to accomplish against Griffin gives hope for greener pastures during latter half of region play.

What to watch out for next week

Now is the time to not let off the gas for the Panthers and keep improving. Not only for the short term (region championship) but also for the long term (deep playoff run). This week they have another potential challenger in Whitewater. They may not be known for being a football threat, but the Wildcats are 2-1 in the region. More to the point they barely lost to Griffin and pulverized both Northside and McIntosh.

I may have been wrong about Whitewater in the beginning. They are looking like a threat. Currently, they are third in the region standings. Starr’s Mill probably still has a solid chance to win, but they should tread lightly and stick to what has been working.

Should they win this week, they also have to take care of business at the very least the following week against McIntosh. They take care of that and the region title is theirs for the fifth time in a row. However, there is more football to be played, and there is improvement that must be made. If they want to take their team to the next level, that starts making greater noise in the second half of region play.

A new phase of Starr’s Mill football season begins as the Panthers remain at Panther Stadium and host the Whitewater Wildcats this Friday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

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