Gameday Takeaways, Playoffs – Round 1
Three points from record-breaking first round win
December 2, 2020
Heading into the 2020 GHSA AAAAA state playoffs, Starr’s Mill faced off against the Mundy’s Mill Tigers. The Panthers threw everything they had at the Tigers to easily advance after a 63-6 win. Highlighted by the most points the Panthers have scored in program history, here are three takeaways of note.
Quality in execution, variety in play calling
If there is anything I learned about the Wing T while watching the Panthers, you need a variety of plays to keep the defense on their toes and proficiency in execution to do it well. Against Mundy’s Mill, they showed how deadly an efficient Wing T offense is.
More than any other time this year the offense was able to execute their plays magnificently. Minus a few hiccups here and there, everyone on the offense made sure their hard work and preparation did not go to waste.
They put up 414 yards of total offense. On the ground, the Panthers rushed the ball 51 times for 354 yards. Seven different players scored for the Panthers, including five different backs, sophomore quarterback Will Yarbrough with three total touchdowns, and sophomore tight end Josh Phifer with two receiving touchdowns. All this scoring tied the all-time record, set in 2001, for most touchdowns in a game with nine.
What may be more interesting is that they kept Mundy’s Mill guessing with their play calls. This has to do a lot with the option looking cleaner than ever. Whether they were taking the ball up the middle, sweeping it outside or something else, it was all a guessing game.
It looked as though the Panthers were gambling with a loaded die. They set up solid options and the team was able to decide to take one and get some yardage. It was great seeing plays come together, and the offense with how much they’ve had to conquer have proven how dangerous they can truly be.
Moc disrupts the line, Bishop takes over the backfield
Oh, would you look at that? The Panther defense shutdown a team in commanding fashion…again. As boring as it made the game in the second half, you have to give that defense massive props. Seniors Andres Moc and captain Cole Bishop also decided to show up and make waves and lead a defense that was anything but an open door.
If getting two sacks two weeks ago for Moc was not enough, he decided he wanted a little more. On the first defensive snap of the game, he tipped a pass and intercepted the ball for a pick six. Granted the touchdown was taken off the board because of an illegal blocking penalty — the play was remarkable regardless. One turnover still was not enough, as Moc grabbed a fumble recovery later in the game.
Moc was a ruthless monster that led a defensive line that made the Tigers’ night a living nightmare, only being able to muster up 49 yards on the ground. In the wake of a struggling run game, they decided to take some shots in the air. Little did they know a hungry Bishop was on the other side ready to make a move.
Bishop recorded two interceptions against Mundy’s Mill. On top of that, the Utah commit took one interception for a 35-yard return that set up a Panther touchdown a few plays later. Despite letting one touchdown slide, the Panther secondary picked off Mundy’s Mill four times.
The might of the Panther defense speaks for itself, but a performance just like this was dynamic on top of being effective. They were able to pull off several huge plays and effectively shut down Mundy’s Mill.
Barnett leads explosive running game
Senior wing back Devin Barnett had an emphatic start to the season, proving himself as the potential star rusher of the season with incredible speed. As the season progressed, he struggled to recapture his early success. Barnett slowly kept getting better near the tail end of region play, and has launched himself back to the forefront yet again this week.
What Barnett may lack in experience as a ball carrier he can easily make up with his speed. Multiple times against the Tigers he was able to get solid gains when there was an open lane. This includes when he took the ball from the outside for a 10-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
I would compare some aspects of Barnett to alumni Kalen Sims. Both were not only effective runners, but they also succeeded as diversions. Credit goes where it is due for Barnett running the ball for eight carries to rack up 90 yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore running back Greigh Joseph and junior fullback Brandon Mathis in particular got a ton of mileage. They combined for a total of 113 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns, one for each. It is imperative that production comes from every running back. Starr’s Mill prides itself on being able to have a carousel of running backs, and this team is no different.
It is the traditional Wing T offense that has proven to be effective time and time again. On paper, they have the plays and the ability to execute. Game time, though, it’s about who will step up, take the ball, and literally run with it. It seems like every back is willing to pitch in, and seeing that they are all looking more confident and playing better overall, that is exactly what this offense needs.
What to watch for next week
No shade to Mundy’s Mill, but round two is where the real competition rears its ugly head. Starr’s Mill is set up to play the Coffee Trojans, a team that is ranked number 5 by the AJC. They faced off away against a 9-1 Ola Mustangs team last Friday and, despite a tight first half, Coffee pulled away for a 31-7 win.
As far as the Panthers, the parts are there and have proven to perform well together. If every aspect of this team can click, the Panthers can and will run with the Trojans. It’s going be all about preparation leading up to Friday and execution the day of. Ultimately, the better football team on that night will win.
The Panthers will host the Coffee Trojans this Friday in the second round of the GHSA AAAAA state playoffs. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.