It goes deeper than region implications when Starr’s Mill and McIntosh tangle. The old rivals renewed their feud Friday night, and it was the Panthers shaking off an early challenge to pull away in the second half for a 34-0 road win against the Chiefs.
Both teams now run an option-based, ground it out offense, and it showed as neither team got on the board early.
“Them going to our offense eliminated two or three possession we would’ve gotten,” said Starr’s Mill head coach Chad Phillips. “In my opinion, they’re doing exactly what they need to do. The score was low because what they do kept us from having the ball.”
Starr’s drove into the red zone on their opening possession, but coughed the ball up for an Andrew Villiger fumble recovery.
Neither offense could find any traction early, as the Panthers would not score the night’s first points until midway through the second quarter. Karsen Kalen capped off a 51-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run, and Christian Castillo’s extra point made it a 7-0 ball game.
Following another Chief three-and-out, the Panthers drove 55 yards to the house. Keyed by a 16-yard Brandon Mathis run and finished off with a 13-yard Kalen Sims touchdown run, the drive put Starr’s Mill firmly in the driver’s seat at 14-0.
McIntosh strung together their best drive of the half on their next possession. Hayes Herzog scrambled for their first first down of the game, and Mason McPeters ran for nine yards out to midfield, but sacks by Ardit Hoti and Jack Barczak knocked them way out of scoring range to maintain the 14-0 margin at halftime.
The second half was a different story as the Panthers took advantage of McIntosh miscues to put the game away right out of the break.
“We really challenged them to come out and win the third quarter decisively,” said Phillips. “The boys started playing with a lot of confidence when they built up the lead.”
The defense was the story all night. For the second straight week, they held the opposition’s starting offense off the scoreboard. With just one senior in the bunch, the crew is rounding into shape quickly.
“They are starting to come together,” said Phillips.
On the first snap of the half, Herzog was swarmed by several Panthers for a sack. On the second snap, his pass was tipped and picked off by Jonathan Higle on the 12 yard line.
Setting up already in the red zone, they made it count, and Kalen did the honors, rumbling for a 9-yard touchdown and 21-0 lead.
The bad news kept coming for the Chiefs as, on the very next snap, they fumbled the ball away for a Hoti recovery. The Panthers immediately took advantage, with Hunter Lawson hitting Gavin Necessary on a slant route, and he raced 40 yards for a touchdown. The extra point attempt was unsuccessful, but they held a commanding 27-0 advantage with less than two minutes gone in the half.
They firmly put the game out of reach late in the quarter as Ben Bodne powered his way into the end zone from one yard out for the final blow in the 34-0 rout.
Starr’s Mill held control all night with a balanced attack that saw four players top 60 yards as they piled up 294 yards rushing as a team. Bodne led the way with 80 yards and 1 touchdown on 13 carries, Brandon Mathis ran for 76 yards on 5 attempts, Kalen picked up 63 yards and 2 scores on 10 attempts, and Sims ran for 62 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries.
The Panthers get this week off to rest off before they travel to face the region-leading Riverdale Raiders in a Saturday Night Special, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.
“It’s going to be a big test,” said Phillips. “If we can clear that hurdle, we’ve got a shot at winning the thing again.”