by Jack Fletcher
via The Prowler News at SMHS
Just like last year, the Panthers took a trip down south for the first round of the state playoffs. And just like last year, one team dominated the flow of the game. However, unlike last year, Starr’s Mill won its first playoff game since 2010 to move on to the next round after beating Northside-Columbus 49-0.
Five touchdowns before halftime and a defense that allowed only 82 total yards helped the Panthers pull away.
“We’ve been notorious for the past couple years of coming out a little slow, so coming out as fast as we did was huge and really set the tone for the rest of the game,” senior Satchel Goodrich said. Goodrich caught 2 passes for 44 yards and played a big part on both sides of the ball.
Senior running back Dion Munerlyn got on the board first, scoring from 12 yards out with 6:25 left in the first quarter for his eleventh rushing touchdown of the year.
“When the line blocks as well as it did tonight, we can go out there and score,” Munerlyn said. “This was the number two team from their region and everyone projected us to lose, but we came out and proved them wrong. This win shows what our team is about.”
About six minutes later, sophomore running back Rico Frye scored his first touchdown of the night to tie Zach Laskey’s school record for rushing touchdowns in a season, running in from 7 yards away. He also broke Laskey’s record for most rushing yards in a season earlier in the first quarter. Frye finished the game with 200 yards and 3 touchdowns on 12 carries.
Sophomore backs Frye and Nic Brown helped carry the load offensively, combining to run for 312 yards and 4 touchdowns on 21 carries.
“You already know I thank my lineman for everything I do on this field,” Frye said. “They had a great game and I did, too. I just want to thank my lineman. It’s been fun playing with these boys this season.”
Frye scored his second touchdown on the next Panther possession, running 6 yards to break Laskey’s record. He scored his third and final touchdown of the night under three minutes later, crossing the goal line from 1 yard out with six minutes left in the half to put the Panthers ahead by 28.
“We, as the coaches, keep challenging them to get improve and start a little faster,” head coach Chad Phillips said. “We still have some stuff that we can improve on, but we played well and got a lot of momentum early.”
The Panthers outgained Northside in yards 449-16 in the first half . The Patriots managed just one first down in the half and punted every time they had the ball, including four three-and-out possessions.
“We’ve got such good players,” defensive coordinator Jeff Schmidlkofer said. “They’ve really bought into what we’re selling, and I just enjoy being around them. They’re good kids and it’s all on them. The guys executed today.”
By the end of the half, some of the starters were already out. Sophomore running back Mitchell Prowant took advantage of the extra playing time and scored his fourth touchdown of the season with 27 seconds left in the half on a 1-yard run to put the Panthers up 35-0.
Based on Georgia High School Association mercy rules, a running clock was instituted for the second half, so fans were able to travel home a little earlier than expected, but not without seeing a couple more scores.
After recovering a dropped kickoff return by Northside, Nic Brown took over the drive. A short, two play drive ended with another touchdown for Starr’s Mill, as Brown ran 19 yards on the first carry and 15 yards on the next for the score. He finished the game with 112 yards on 9 carries and the touchdown.
Northside put together its best drive of the night after that score. In 10 plays, the Patriots went 46 yards down the field after starting from their own 10-yard line. The drive resulted in their second first down of the night and the only one of the half, but ended when Phillip Pfaffman intercepted a Northside pass and took it 68 yards to inside the 10-yard line.
Two plays later, with 2:41 left in the third quarter, Connor Morgan ran in from one yard away for the last score of the game and his second touchdown of the season.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better than our offense putting up 49 points,” senior linebacker Melvin Broomfield said. “The defense played our part behind them and it all worked tonight.”
The last Panther possession took over 10 minutes off the clock and was the only drive to not end with a score, the last play a short run up the middle on fourth down to keep the clock running under two minutes left in the game.
“We didn’t underestimate our opponent,” Frye said. “We came out and played hard. We wanted it more tonight and we came out with the W. It’s been a fun season and I don’t want it to end.”
The Panthers won the battle in almost every stat over Northside. The offense finished with a season-high 555 total yards, including 469 yards on the ground. Quarterback Joey DeLuca was a perfect 3 for 3 before sitting the second half, throwing for 86 yards, four more yards than Northside’s entire offense in the game.
Next week, the Panthers will be on the road again against Allatoona. Fans can expect a much closer game than this week, as Allatoona also won 52-3 against Winder-Barrow. This is the sixth straight year Allatoona has made the state playoffs and they finished 10-1 this season as the top team out of Region 5-AAAAA. The Buccaneers played well at home, finishing 5-0 in those games while outscoring opponents 219-37.
“I know they have been very good in years past,” Phillips said. “They are very well coached, they work hard, put a lot of work into it, and expect to win. Hopefully we can answer the challenge. We’ll break the film down and get a plan together and practice it. We’ll see what happens next week.”