By Riley Hicks
With under 20 seconds left before halftime, the Sandy Creek Patriots had the ball on the 1-yard line looking to punch it in for its first touchdown of the game. Starr’s Mill defense had other plans as a host of Panthers swarmed on the running back making the stop. This forced the Patriots to take a field goal instead to end the quarter.
This was just one of the key plays made by the Starr’s Mill Panthers defense as it seemingly shut down the Sandy Creek Patriots to secure the win 21-6. This was the first win against the Patriots since 1999.
“We beat a very quality team,” Panthers head coach Chad Phillips said. “The boys made plays and they played hard from snap to whistle for a whole 48 minutes.
The offense started the game by putting together a good first drive that led to a 47-yard field goal by kicker Michael Lantz. This allowed the Panthers to go on the scoreboard early 3-0. Two offensive possessions later, quarterback Joey DeLuca stepped back and threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Rew. The extra point to follow was blocked by Patriots LaCory Ryals, but the lead did extend to 9-0.
Throughout the first half, Starr’s Mill defense took advantage of Sandy Creek’s multiple penalties to end potential scores. After the Patriots had a touchdown called back, Coltin Houser sacked the quarterback on fourth down to prevent a first down to extend the drive. The next offensive possession for Sandy Creek was halted again after an interception by Charlie Mizzell the Starr’s Mill 8-yard line. In a last-ditch effort to find the end zone before the half, the Patriots drove down to Starr’s Mills 1-yard only to be shut out. They then settled for a field goal, which seemed like a win for the Panthers, to close the second quarter 9-3.
The question at the start of the third quarter was could the Panthers’ defense play the second half the same way as the first. Starr’s Mill answered the question quickly by forcing a punt after Houser recorded his second sack of the night on the Patriots first possession. The following drive for Sandy Creek stuttered after another stand by Starr’s Mill at its 14-yard line. Again, the Patriots had to settle for a field goal to draw the score to 12-6. Houser was the player of the night for the Panthers defense recording a total of four sacks.
“Coming into the game personally I was nervous but after the first half we came back out and dominated,” Houser said.
Starr’s Mill’s offense put together another strong night on the ground rushing for 190 yards. Needing to put the game away the Panthers had a fourth-and-1, the quarterback handed off to Cole Gilley who found a hole and sprinted to the end zone to further the lead 21-6. An interception by Sean King secured the victory for the Panthers.
“We put the work in all week and it was going to be a big task,” Gilley said. “I was just thinking one yard and we win the game.”
The Panthers (4-0) play at Morrow Mustangs (3-1) Friday at 7:30 p.m.