October 14, 2020
Every Friday in the fall, Panther Nation shows up to see their very own football team come out and play the game. Behind the scenes, the team grinds and grinds to achieve success. Their goals this year? Win a fifth consecutive region championship, and contend for a state championship.
That journey continues into region play. New region alignments have changed the landscape of competition for the Panthers. On top of Griffin, Harris County and Northgate have entered the fray, giving Starr’s Mill more layers of competition. The progress made in non-region will be put to the test as every game counts from this point forward.
What is to take away from these games? That is what The Prowler is here to provide. Every week, The Prowler will issue three takeaways from the previous week’s game to provide analysis. We intend to follow the team’s every pass, run, tackle, and score through season 23.
Come back every Tuesday for a new installment of “Gameday Takeaways.”
Gameday Takeaways, Week 5
Three notes from first region game
Region play finally commenced last Friday as Starr’s Mill hosted the Harris County Tigers in their first region game. Starr’s Mill came out on top by a score of 14-10 to get their first region victory of the season. Here are three things of note from that game.
- A new breakout runner enters the fray
He may be late to the party, but sophomore running back Greigh Joseph made a huge impact in only his third game with the Panthers. He carried the ball 13 times for 60 yards, ranking second on the team. He also scored two touchdowns for the Panthers.
“[Being able to show my abilities] is a great feeling really,” Joseph said. “Just to put my name out there, people know who I am, it’s just a dream come true really.”
Joseph proved to be an all-around talent. He was able to run with some speed, and power through defenders when he needed to. His style parallels junior Brandon Mathis, who can do it all as well, just with a tad more experience. Producing several viable backs to utilize is something the Panthers have always been good at, and here they are doing it again.
This adds another good back to the list. Joseph, Mathis, and senior Devin Barnett — that is three reputable backs the team has in rotation. That does not even get into sophomore quarterback Will Yarbrough’s running abilities, and other solid backs on the team. This set of backs truly bolsters their abilities and aids their play overall to improve offensive potential.
- Harris County’s quarterback provided a formidable challenge
On the other side of the ball, the defense had to handle a dangerous dual-threat quarterback in junior Cooper Corey. Throwing the ball, he completed 14 of 23 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. On top of that he rushed the ball for 13 carries to rack up 50 yards, leading the team.
What is remarkable is how the Panther defense limited his contributions to only a single touchdown. Even then, that touchdown came after three juggling catches, which is something that is extraordinarily commendable by the receiving core. Corey was limited to only 5.9 yards per pass and only a 60% completion percentage.
Corey has been one of, if not the, biggest threat under center the Panthers have faced. He was only able to make a few 15+ yard plays throughout the entire game. Limiting his efforts shows how the Panther defense can shut down any dangerous threat. Keeping their productivity low and putting them on lockdown is a statement about the might of the Panther defense.
- If the culture of hard work was not evident, it is now
Culture may be one of the most overused sports terms out there. Fakers will use it to make it sound like their team is better on the inside than people think. However, I not only believe Panther football’s culture is the real deal, but they are backing it up every single game.
Four out of five weeks, Starr’ Mill has been in some sort of situation where the game was down to the wire. Game one did not go their way due to the green nature of the team. Game three, the offense came through and the defense followed suit. Last week, the defense made a red zone stand and the offense ran five minutes of game time. This week, they again pulled off what they did last week.
“Number one we got great kids. The culture is so good because of the history of this place,” head coach Chad Phillips said. “Our staff is an incredibly strong coaching staff, and we got multiple guys that could be head coaches and coordinators, and they love this place. They love being a part of this, and when everything’s going well, it’s a whole a lot of fun.”
If their culture of hard work did not exist, then the results would speak for themselves. The results do speak, and they speak volumes of the work the team has put in. Nobody knew exactly how good the offense would be, but seeing them in action clearly shows that they are improving week in and week out.
Having this level of tenacity is crucial now. Every game counts and they cannot take any opportunity for granted. There is a reason right now why the Panthers are considered a threat.
What to watch for next week
We may have just crossed the halfway point of the season, but the work has just begun. This week, they will travel to Newnan to take on the 2-2 Northgate Vikings. Northgate has proven through non-region play that they are a competitive team meant to be taken seriously. They are a wild card in the region who can make big wins if they play it right.
Northgate is also coming off of a bye week, so they have had time to prepare for the Panthers. The Panthers should be going there for business, ready to take them down. Starr’s Mill can absolutely win, but we will have to see whatever may happen this Friday.
Starr’s Mill will travel to Newnan to take on Northgate this Friday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Gameday Takeaways, Week 6
Three notes from quiet win
Last week, the Panthers made their way to Valhalla to take on the Northgate Vikings. Exactly two hours later, the Panthers were victorious 10-0. A very quiet shutout it was. Here are three takeaways from their second region win.
Two sides of the same coin
Both teams showcased young quarterbacks that played different styles. On one side there is sophomore Will Yarbrough, who played much more conservatively like a game manager. On the sideline was sophomore James Paige, who used his explosive athleticism to try and make plays.
Paige took the play into his hands on several occasions. On his own, he carried the ball 17 times for 53 yards. He also passed the ball a couple times going three-for-eight with 36 passing yards. He was never afraid to try and make a play, even if it cost the team like one big scramble inside the five did.
Yarbrough played more like a game manager in comparison. He seemed comfortable managing the clock and letting the other backs on the offense carry their own loads. Even so, he still was not afraid to take the ball and run, rushing the ball twice for 20 yards. Along with that, he helped keep the offense on the field for nearly half an hour of game time.
Yarbrough has been thrust into a situation where he is forced to adapt or crumble. Even though he has not soared with mind-boggling stats, he has carried his own weight on his shoulders. The first-year starter looked disciplined under center and proved that he can do the basics of the quarterback position.
Everybody knows that seniors Cole Bishop and Wes Haney are unstoppable forces within the Panther defense. Not only did they prove their might once again, but they also made stellar contributions on the offensive side of the ball.
Bishop helped lead a secondary that shut down Northgate’s passing game, and he also ran the ball twice for 31 yards. Similarly, Haney had a good defensive night, including a fumble recovery, but also got some important rushing yards with three carries for 35 yards.
“We have workouts during the winter, summer, and throughout everything,” Bishop said. “So we just are already dedicated to [the game of football], so discipline comes overtime.”
Having two athletes like this is incredible. These are two players who have been able to make contributions to varsity football since their freshman years. Seeing those two athletes exert contributions for the team as a whole says volumes about not only their own abilities, but how they stick their necks out for the team. Starr’s Mill is lucky to have two captains that have those qualities.
On the surface, it was looking like Northgate was simply able to consistently make stops in the trenches, and the lack of offensive production was for that reason. However, I then realized this was happening a little too often, and it was happening on several snaps in previous games. Then it clicked, it was on the green in the backfield.
Sure, the offense is doing just enough to win now, but how long will this level of play hold up? The inexperience of the backfield is still showing. Even if the Panthers are controlling time well, granted that is a cornerstone of every Starr’s Mill offense under head coach Chad Phillips, the stats are not there.
There have been 10 turnovers in six games, compared to the 13 through the entire 2019 season, the offense has only exceeded 20 points once, and there has not been a single 300-yard game yet. This is not to come down and disregard all the work the offense has been putting in, but it is still concerning.
There are going to be stronger teams in the road ahead, and one of them is Griffin next week. It will be worrisome if the offense keeps playing like this. I am sure that the team is aware of this, and know they are not where they want to be. The season is still young and there is work to be done, but it has to happen sooner in order to prepare for later.
What to watch for next week
It is a good thing that the defense is as incredible as it is, or the Panthers would not be ahead in the region right now. However, the biggest fish to fry is on the horizon. Griffin is going to be a challenge. They may not be the best coached team in the region, but their athleticism can carry them miles.
Having proven to get the job done, the offense will have to do what they have always done and then some and get some substantial production. There is no doubt that the defense can keep Griffin in check like they have with several powerful offenses already this season. The question that will be posed on game day is this: Will the offense rise even higher?
Even though I came down on this offense, the potential is there and so are the weapons. They just need to be refined some more, and then we could see great things happen.
Find out next week at Panther Stadium as Starr’s Mill hosts Griffin on Oct. 30. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.