All in

Boys lacrosse team thrashes King’s Ridge, advances to quarterfinals


Abby Carter

Panthers crowd King’s Ridge senior midfielder and attacker Brennan Brown during the second round of the A-AAAAA GHSA state playoffs. Despite a slow start, Starr’s Mill erupted to dominate the Tigers in a 17-8 victory. Eight players scored for the Panthers and nine players collected ground balls. “Nobody thought that we could win without those [seniors] that left last year,” Schmidlkofer said. “These guys have proven that they can. I’m super, super proud of all the guys that are contributing.”

Daniel Stackhouse, Sports Editor

Competition is getting fierce in the boys lacrosse playoffs as teams continue to up the ante on their quest for a state title. Starr’s Mill has made the decision to go all in, forging a path to the elite eight by beating the King’s Ridge Tigers 17-8 last night.

Junior Collin Smith slings a shot on goal past two King’s Ridge defenders. Scoring the first goal of the game, Smith scored three goals and three assists against the Tigers. Junior Charlie Crockett led the Panthers in goals. “We’ve been working really hard and I think that’s just really helped a lot,” Smith said. “I think that we were just more prepared than [King’s Ridge].” (Abby Carter)

Leading the Panther offensive attack was junior Charlie Crockett with four goals. Not far behind him were juniors Barrett Schmidlkofer and Collin Smith with two goals each. Schmidlkofer and Smith also had two and three assists, respectively. Senior captains Gabe Lopez and Luke Rusterucci both tallied two goals each, and racked up two and five assists, respectively.

Senior Eric Fewell led the team with four ground balls. Juniors Michael Johnson, Nate Mitchell, and Alex Ratinaud as well as senior Eric Rausch all had three ground balls each. Freshman goalie Seth Maxwell limited a King’s Ridge offense that consistently scored double digit goals all season. He made 13 saves in the game.

“The guys just stepped up. They just played,” head coach Jeff Schmidlkofer said. “Offensively, everybody’s going to try to stop [Rusterucci]… We’ve been telling the guys, ‘Hey, the midfielders has [sic] got to help.’ And I think the midfielders scored a bunch of goals tonight.”

Early in the game, it was the Tigers that started hot. In the first seven minutes of play, King’s Ridge held a 3-0 lead against Starr’s Mill. With about four and a half minutes left in the first quarter, Smith started the scoring for the Panthers, and junior Bennett Via and Lopez followed suit. After one quarter, a clutch save by Maxwell kept the Panthers’ deficit to 4-3.

Within the first minute of the second quarter, a goal from Schmidlkofer to Lopez tied the game. Thompson sped across the midfield about 20 seconds later to sling another goal for the Panthers to take the lead. 

“It was awesome [to jumpstart the team],” Smith said. “I’m usually not the leading scorer, but I think that I just played to the best of my ability, and I think that really helped. With the help of the attacks, it paid off.”

Lopez had a solo goal with about seven minutes to go, and Rusterucci pushed in another goal from Smith with about three minutes to go. Within the final two minutes of the half, King’s Ridge scored another goal. As time expired, the Panthers held a two goal lead, going up 7-5 at the half.

That’s what really got us that win is that grit and grind, and then keeping to our stuff.

— senior Luke Rusterucci

In the third quarter, Starr’s Mill scored two goals within the first three minutes. However, King’s Ridge responded with two goals of their own in the next few minutes. Within the last four minutes of the third quarter, Schmidlkofer connected with Crockett for a goal. About a minute later Smith connected with Schmidlkofer for another goal. Smith scored another goal with thirty seconds left in the quarter to bring the Panthers up 12-7 at the end of the third.

“Everybody bought in. Everybody played their job,” Rusterucci said. “That’s what really got us that win is that grit and grind, and then keeping to our stuff.”

All the momentum continued to build for the Panthers throughout the fourth quarter. The offense continued to score goal after goal until a goal from Lopez to Schmidlkofer enacted mercy rule with three minutes to go. The clock continued to whittle down, but not before King’s Ridge got one final goal. In the end, the Panthers were victorious with a final score of 17-8.

On Friday, the Panthers will be facing their biggest challenge yet in the Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans. The Spartans are coming into the jungle as as a top five team in A-5A according to MaxPreps, boasting a 13-4 record, including and undefeated 6-0 record in area play, including wins against Marist and Wesleyan, both teams rank in the top 11 of A-5A on MaxPreps.

“I know GAC’s got a heck of a program… They’ll be ready and they’ll be dialed in for the Panthers,” Schmidlkofer said. “I’ll start preparing, but tonight I just want to enjoy this. This [win] is fun and I’m happy for the kids, and I’m happy that they got to continue their season.”

The Panthers will host the Spartans on Friday in the A-5A quarterfinals. The first faceoff is set for 6 p.m.