When the Starr’s Mill Panthers and Northgate Vikings met last year, the Vikings rallied late to win a shootout. They renewed the cross-county rivalry on Friday night, and it was high-scoring again for one team, but it was the Panthers scoring revenge as they traveled to deliver a dominating 28-0 performance.
Last season, Starr’s Mill yielded a late lead at home in a 31-29 loss to Northgate. Coach Chad Phillips was determined that would not happen again.
“We’re making things right from last year because we let one get away from us,” said Phillips. “We challenged them before the game and we challenged them at halftime not to let the same thing happen. We have really good junior and senior classes, and they took over.”
The victory represented a bounce back, not just from last year, but also from a sluggish 14-8 week-one win over Mt. Zion. Big back Ben Bodne took it to heart, scoring the Panthers’ first three touchdowns.
“We wanted to play better than last week because we started off so slow. The coaches told us we needed to fire off in every aspect, the line, the backs, everything, and we really wanted to execute that,” said Bodne. “We brought more focus and aggression. We just wanted it more.”
Neither team found their footing in the first quarter, but the Panthers slowly gained traction midway through the second. Sparked by a Wes Haney forced fumble and recovery, they set up deep in Viking territory and made it count. Facing 4th and short, Bodne moved the chains down to the two yard line. On the next play he punched it in for a 7-0 lead.
Their next possession started on their own five after a perfect Northgate punt, but they wasted no time getting to work. Brandon Mathis took the handoff on the trap and raced nearly the length of the field, going 88 yards before he was tackled shy of the other goal line. Bodne took it in from eight yards out on the next snap for a 14-0 advantage.
The offense followed their usual pattern. Keep pushing and executing and eventually the defense will break.
“We just kept pounding, found a couple holes, and just wore them down,” said Phillips. “You can stop our stuff a lot, but eventually we’re going to catch you with a big play. The kids are very emotional, and when we hit a big run, you can see it and they get excited.”
An interception and long return by freshman William Yarbrough nearly earned the Panthers more points in the first half, but a field goal attempt was off the mark and Starr’s Mill led 21-0 heading into halftime.
The kept the momentum rolling right out of the break. After forcing a three and out on the defense, Bodne rumbled for 34 yards on the first offensive snap. Kalen Sims added a first down run, and Bodne took it in from seven yards out for his third score of the game and a 21-0 lead.
The Panthers piled up 348 yards on the ground, keyed by 140 yards and 3 touchdowns on 21 carries for Ben Bodne. Brandon Mathis added 108 yards on 5 carries, and Kalen Sims ran for 63 yards on 13 attempts.
Greigh Joseph struck the final blow with a short touchdown plunge with just over two minutes to play.
The defense kept suffocating the Vikings, allowing less than 200 total yards, with Jack Barczak making the key play of the second half on a strip sack and fumble recovery. Even as the backups tricked in over the course of the second half, they kept the Vikings off the scoreboard to seal the 28-0 shutout win.
Phillips is excited with his team’s potential if they can keep up the strong work on defense and special teams.
“The reason we run our offense the way we do is because have to control the clock,” said Phillips. “We have military-type kids and a run, run, run mentality, and we’re good at it. If we can play defense, we have a chance to be okay.”
The night was a positive, but bitter sweet with key injuries mounting up, including start safety Wes Haney and two-way starter Logan Prince.
“Things are going well, but that could change at any moment,” said Phillips. “We’re going to pay a price for this victory.”