Dion Munerlyn races to one of his three touchdowns on Friday night. (Staff Photos by Christopher Dunn)

The big-play Panthers struck again, this time with Dion Munerlyn leading the way to a 31-14 Starr’s Mill win over Fayette County.

The first quarter was dominated by defense, Starr’s Mill mustering the only points on a Whitaker Chu field goal. But it wouldn’t take long into the second quarter for a big strike. On the Panthers’ first offensive play of the frame, Joey DeLuca got the safeties to bite on a playaction fake and hit Munerlyn over the top for a 72-yard touchdown pass.

Fayette responded well, stringing together a 65-yard scoring drive. Spurred by a pair of big scrambles from quarterback Makenzie Stills and a 13-yard reverse by Wade Barlow, the Tigers got in position for a short plunge by Malek Bowe on fourth and inches.

The Tigers took the lead on the first drive of the second half with the help of good field position and a penalty. Barlow took the second half kickoff out close to midfield, but the drive bogged down and looked to be a three and out when the officials called a personal foul on the Panthers on an incomplete pass to extend the drive. Jahlil Dabney made them pay with a 25-yard run deep into the red zone. Stills capped off the drive with a 7-yard run. James Hawkins added the extra point to put Fayette in front 14-10 early in the third quarter.

Starr’s Mill’s defense locked in from there, shutting out the Tigers down the stretch and forcing four turnovers over the final two quarters. Turner Boland, Matt Mullins, and Charlie Mizzell each recovered a fumble, and Marcel Ray added an interception.

Trailing for the first time all night, the Panther offense responded with a 73-yard scoring drive. Much like the Tigers, it looked like the possession would end in a three and out, but a third down personal foul gave new life. DeLuca scrambled for 11 yards to push past midfield, then Munerlyn did the rest with a 46-yard touchdown for a 17-14 lead.

Makenzie Stills tries to get away from Nathan Cockes.

Boland’s recovery set Starr’s Mill up back in Fayette territory. Munerlyn and Rico Frye each moved the chains, setting up a short Frye score.

The Panthers finished the scoring early in the fourth on a 6-yard Munerlyn run.

Fayette twice got into Panther territory in the fourth quarter, but turnovers ended both drives. A 35-yard bomb from Stills to Anthonie Powell was a highlight, but Marcel Ray responded with a leaping interception. On the game’s final drive, Stills connected with Dabney for 13 yards on third and long, but a pair of sacks by Nathan Cockes were the final blow. The second sack dislodged the ball, bouncing to Mizzell and setting up the Panthers to take a knee and seal the 31-14 victory.


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