Starr’s Mill falls at home in round two to Kell 31-3
by Christopher Dunn
Starr’s Mill’s run is over with a round two loss to Kell Friday night. Uncharacteristic miscues helped doom the Panthers in a 31-3 loss to the Longhorns.
Kell’s offense kicked into high gear on their opening drive. On their first three plays, the Longhorns chewed up 54 yards. They would take a 7-0 lead on a 16-yard Josiah Futral run just two minutes into the game.
The Panthers looked like they could go blow-for-blow early on. They converted two third downs, Mitch Prowant running for eight yards on one and Cole Gilley plunging ahead for two yards on 3rd and one on the other, to keep the chains moving. Nick Brown added a 13-yard run, and Khalen Sims ran for 12 on a sweep as Starr’s Mill got into the red zone. The drive would stall, but Michael Lantz drilled a 33-yard field goal to make it a 7-3 game. It would be their last points of the game.
Kell thought they had returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but it was called back for a block in the back, forcing them to start on their own 9. They would see another touchdown called back on the drive, leading to a 26-yard field goal and a 10-3 lead early in the second quarter.
The miscues would soon start to pile up for the Panthers. After a fruitless possession, the special teams would begin to leak as Kell’s Shamaar Bennett started to wreak havoc. Bennett burst through the line to tip a punt and set his team up on the Starr’s Mill 30. The Panthers turned them away on a fourth down conversion, but a three and out sent the punt team out again. Bennett did it again, tipping the ball as the Longhorns started past midfield once more.
Dre Houston made it count, carrying multiple would-be tacklers into the end zone on a 23-yard touchdown for a 17-3 lead.
Starr’s Mill tried to dig out of bad field position hole, starting on their own 9, but getting 15 yards on a Brown run. A sack and a penalty would kill the momentum and force another punt.
The third time was the charm for Kell, Bennett bursting through once more, but fully blocking the ball this time. Josh Blancato picked up the ball and took it to the end zone for a 24-3 lead that would hold until halftime.
The Panthers could not shake themselves out of their funk, fumbling the ball away on the opening possession of the second half. Noah Woghiren picked up it and returned it for a touchdown and the final strike in the 31-3 win.
Starr’s Mill would not give up, driving into the red zone on their next series, but a missed connection on a pass into the end zone and a failed fourth down conversion kept them from scoring.
Phillip Pfaffman recovered a fumble early in the fourth quarter, and the offense drove into the red zone, but would not convert on 4th and 8, allowing Kell to milk out the rest of the clock.
The game was played out mostly on the ground, both teams piling up 321 rushing yards apiece. Kell got theirs on only 30 carries (10.7 yards per carry), while Starr’s Mill did it on 64. Cole Gilley led the Panther attack with 111 yards on 22 carries, followed by Nick Brown with 86 yards on 13 carries, Mitch Prowant with 56 on 13, and Kalen Sims with 44 on three.
Starr’s Mill finishes the season 7-5.
Creek bogs down in loss to Syrupmakers
by Christopher Dunn
The Sandy Creek Patriots saw their title hopes dashed on a trip down south, falling 10-7 to the Cairo Syrupmakers in a defensive slugfest.
The defenses for both sides were outstanding, with neither team able to reach the end zone in the first half. Cairo would notch the only points of the opening half on a 44-yard field goal.
The Syrupmakers added to their lead in the third quarter with a 17-yard touchdown pass to pull ahead 10-0.
With time running out, the Patriots finally got the spark they were looking for, returning a punt for a touchdown for one last shot. Unfortunately for the team from Tyrone, Cairo would recover the ensuing onside kick and run out the clock.
Sandy Creek finishes the season 8-4.
Landmark Christian rallies late to roll into quarterfinals
by Rob Grubbs
The Landmark Christian War Eagles football team and faithful spent the past two weeks left with the bitter taste of their last game, the only loss of their season at home against top-ranked ELCA. Getting the overall seven seed in the Georgia Class A Private School division meant a first round bye before playing the Darlington Tigers at home in a second round matchup. On a night the War Eagles had multiple opportunities to let the game and season slip away, they continued to grind and fight through adversity to advance to the quarterfinals with a valiant 13-12 victory, which was as much a refusal to lose as it was a will to win.
After receiving the kickoff, Darlington’s first play from scrimmage was a Tijai Whatley run through the War Eagle defense for an apparent quick touchdown. You could sense a collective groan from the Landmark sideline. However, the deflation quickly turned to elation as the play was called back for an illegal formation. After the proverbial first play mulligan, the War Eagle defense held for a three and out, highlighted by a pass break up by Nicolas Toomer on third down. On the ensuing fourth down punt, Joey Blount came just inches from blocking the kick, which would become a theme for Darlington scrimmage kicks for the rest of the evening.
The first quarter was a defensive showcase for both teams. Landmark got the initial first down of the game on a run by Dalton Colburn at the midway point of a quarter which turned out to be busy for both punters. Landmark started the scoring for the night with an 80-yard, 8-play drive that included a 23-yard pass from Blount to Dylan Gabrielson to the Darlington 10 yard line and then a touchdown run by Lofton Tidwell to give the War Eagles a 7-0 lead.
Darlington began to find traction on offense on their next drive as well, highlighted by a 41-yard run by Whatley, this time without a penalty, but on third down, Toomer was there for the pass break up and Darlington had to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Sam Berry.
Darlington’s score seemed to swing the momentum their way, and, after a stop, they got the ball again at midfield with three minutes before half. After a quick first down, the Tigers seemed poised to take the halftime lead, but the stingy Landmark defense quieted the rally, at least momentarily, forcing a punt with two minutes left. However, a personal foul on the punt, which would have given Landmark the ball on their own 20, gave Tigers new life with a first down on the War Eagle 23 yard line. Another illegal formation penalty against the Tigers set up a 3rd and 10 from the 13 yard line, but a huge pass rush from Tidwell created an intentional grounding penalty that forced a 43-yard field goal from Berry. With only 46 seconds till half, Berry’s kick hit the front crossbar, only needing one additional yard to clear for a true kick. Although not known at the moment, the defensive stand would turn out to be a critical moment in the game.
The second half turned out to be a story of field position. Landmark received the kickoff but would start their drive from their own 8 yard line after a penalty, and it would be an uphill battle they would fight all night. Every drive that Darlington started was on the War Eagle side of the 50. Toomer once again came up big with an interception at the 1 yard line for the War Eagles, but the constant pressure of being deep in their own territory took its toll on the defense, and the Tigers took the lead on a Whatley touchdown to go up 10-7 with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Darlington would get the ball back quickly and looked to put this one away, moving into scoring position again. On fourth down at the 5 yard line, Darlington initially sent out Perry and the field goal unit to give them a six-point lead with a chip shot field goal, but after a timeout, the offense returned to the field to go for a touchdown. The pass was broken up and Landmark got the ball back on their own 5, still only down by three.
The momentum that was earned was instantly lost as Landmark fumbled into its own end zone and Tidwell recovered for a Darlington safety with only 10:21 left in the game and potentially in the season.
Down 12-7 and forced to kick the ball back to Darlington, the Landmark coaching staff did its finest work of the evening, persuading the team to understand they were still in the game. After forcing Darlington to a three and out, Blount finally got to a punt, blocking it so Landmark would not be pinned in deep again. After both teams exchanged possessions, Landmark began what would be its last chance for victory, down by five points, 80 yards in front of them and only 4:09 left in the game.
With everything hanging in the balance, Landmark head coach Wayne Brantley started the drive with a flanker reverse to Toomer, which picked up a quick 13 yards and brought some needed juice to the Landmark huddle. With the clock running, Blount found Tidwell open for a pass over the middle. The next few moments seemed to play out in slow motion as Tidwell reached for the ball and began a juggling act that included participation from the Darlington defender and ended up as a 43-yard completion to the Darlington 25 yard line. Two plays later, Blount found his receiver in the end zone, throwing a jump ball to Toomer, who easily hauled in for the winning score.
Darlington’s last ditch effort ended in an interception, and Landmark celebrated a win that seemed in doubt most of the fourth quarter.
Coach Brantley could not say enough about his defense, “Their backs were against the wall all night, and the kept finding ways to keep us in the game. We never got down, we just fought and believed in each other”
As a reward, Landmark gets to travel to Athens Friday to take on the undefeated Prince Avenue Christian Wolverines. Brantley said “They are big and strong, but we will be ready. We look forward to the challenge.”
They can use this game as an example of what can be accomplished through character, resolve, and faith in each other.