Satchel Goodrich cuts upfield for Starr’s Mill.
(Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)
Friday night's football game between the Starr's Mill Panthers and the Fayette County Tigers was a tale of two emotions. The Panthers experienced the joy and relief of victory. The Tigers were left with heartbreak after a 28-26 loss.
You feel happy for the victor, jumping for joy. But you also hurt for the one that came up just short, just inches away from victory. Cheers go to Starr's Mill on an important win to build momentum. Unfortunately, the near loss goes to a local team as well. Fayette County will pick themselves up off the ground and keep battling despite the devastating loss. Someone had to win and someone had to lose. Starr's Mill took care of business.
"It never should have been this close. We felt like we played well. We were hurt by some big penalties," said Starr's Mill coach Chad Phillips. "We've got some young kids that are playing. There's pressure playing under the big lights. We're happy to come away with the win."
Fayette County knew they had a big task ahead of them. They were close, but couldn't quite snare the win they wanted so badly.
"It's hard to come in here and play. Starr's Mill held their ground. You can't take anything away from them," said Fayette County coach Mike Davis. "We'll go back to the drawing board. With the opportunities we had to score we just have to make plays."
There was little doubt that the Panthers could come out firing. It took just two drives to score, even if by unconventional means. Seth White had a major hand in digging an early deficit for Fayette County.
On the first play from scrimmage, Kyle Moseley hit White for 11 yards and a first down. Play two was even better with a 36 yard Moseley-White hookup. As if that wasn't enough, the pair would cap off the drive on a 10 yard touchdown as White found a hole in the Tiger secondary. Elijah Bragg's extra point staked Starr's Mill to a 7-0 with less than two minutes off the clock.
After a quick Fayette three and out, the Panthers took control just past midfield. A seemingly stalled drive would be extended on second and 14 with a big 28 yard connection between Moseley and Patrick Mullins. The Tigers had their own chance to kill the drive down close to the goal line, instead it turned into a huge play for the Panthers. Running back John Smith burst through the middle of the defense, just yards from paydirt when he was upended by a big hit, knocking the ball loose. Before the Tigers could scramble to recover the fumble, Seth White bounced on it in the end zone for his second touchdown of the first quarter. White's heads up play pushed Starr's Mill ahead 14-0 with almost seven minutes still to play in the first quarter.
Fayette's offense got rolling on their next turn. Vincent Bey got it started with a rumble through the middle and upfield for 42 yards. The drive appeared stalled when quarterback Davieon Nash could only pick up 10 yards on third and 15. No big deal for the Tigers. On fourth and five from 28 yards out, Nash cooly found an open Desmond Fletcher for a touchdown. The extra point attempt was not successful, narrowing the margin to 14-6.
The teams would trade near misses next. Fayette forced a fumble on the next play from scrimmage, but would not be able to build a drive. They would push down close, eventually getting stopped cold on fourth and four from the five yard line on a big Garrett Houston tackle. Starr's Mill would then drive all the way back down the field before attempting to convert a fourth and three from the Fayette twelve. Vincent Bey responded for the Tigers with a big takedown on a scrambling Moseley to stop the push.
A long field ahead of them was no obstacle for Fayette. After a sack by Garrett Smith and Sam Joines forced a third and twelve on their own nine yard line, the Tigers decided to go for the whole enchilada. Davieon Nash aired it out deep for the speedy Ashton Jackson. Nash's pass was absolutely perfect, just enough air to get past a Panther safety and find the fingertips of Jackson. Jackson hauled it in and took off. From there it got a bit more fun. Pulling away from the pursuit, Jackson lost control of the ball. Luckily for the Tigers, Jackson was able to pick it up in stride and race to the house for a monster 91 yard touchdown. A failed two point conversion would narrow Starr's Mill's lead to 14-12 with 2:45 left in the first half.
After getting the huge play, Fayette would get a little too greedy before the half. A Starr's Mill three and out would give the Tigers the ball on their own 21 with 1:02 left. Rather than let the clock run out after a pair of unsuccessful play, Fayette took to the air. Nash looked for Jackson out in the flat, but Gerren Smith Jr. read the play right. Smith jumped the route, picked it off, and took it back to the house for a pick six with just five seconds left till halftime. The extra point made it 21-12 with a huge momentum swing heading into the locker rooms.
Though the big play was a huge boost, the Panthers also suffered a major blow. Starting quarterback Kyle Moseley suffered a left shoulder injury late in the first half and would not return. Luckily it doesn't look serious going forward. Sophomore wide receiver Satchel Goodrich would have to slide over and take on signal calling duties.
"Losing Kyle hurts. When he's out there we're a different team," said Phillips. "We lose our best receiver too (when Goodrich switches to quarterback)."
Fayette County could have been discouraged with the turn of events and hung their heads. Instead they came out like the team with the momentum on their first drive of the second half. The Tigers took advantage of a pair of big penalties, one a roughing the passer on top of a 14 yard pass from Nash to Jackson and the other a pass interfence call on a failed fourth and 11 attempt. Nash added a big 10 yard scramble to push the ball inside the ten. Jollyce Myrick finished the drive with a four yard touchdown. Myrick also added the two point conversion to make it a 21-20 game midway through the third quarter.
Starr's Mill had a long drive of their own ready. The Panthers needed a pair of third down conversions, one a nine yard run by Goodrich on third and eight and the other a 27 yard draw by John Smith on third and ten at midfield, to extend things. Patrick Mullins finished off the drive with a sweep for 13 yards and a touchdown to make it 28-20.
Fayette's next opportunity would stretch into the fourth quarter and benefit from another Panther penalty. After a quick step backward, Nash would hook up with Keenan Morris for 17 yards on third and 13 to keep the drive alive. On a second and long Nash would find Ashton Jackson for 14. Early in the fourth, Myrick would pick up 14 on a sweep. The Tigers dodged back to back bullets when Panther safety Luke Schoolcraft sniffed out a halfback pass, but could not reel in the pick and again when a Starr's Mill late hit would move the chains. Davieon Nash would not let the new life go to waste, taking a QB sneak up the middle for a 17 yard score.
Sam Joines would come through with a huge tackle for the Panthers to snuff out the ensuing two point conversion, keeping Starr's Mill ahead 28-26 with 9:15 left to play.
Starr's Mill's attempt to pad the score on their next drive would come up short. Patrick Mullins sliced through the defense for 36 yards, but it would be called back most of the way for a holding call upfield. Vincent Bey would add a tackle in the backfield to slow the progress. After no gain on a third and four, John Smith would come up just short on fourth down.
Fayette County got the ball back with the chance to win in their hands. They took over at their own 27 yard line with plenty of time left on the clock and no timeouts left. The Tigers managed the clock about as well as you can, working down the field while leaving minimal time in case they could score and turn the tables to make Starr's Mill need a last minute touchdown. The big mover was a 20 yard burst by Jollyce Myrick. The drive came to a standstill with the Tigers staring down a third and nine at the Starr's Mill 29 with one minute remaining.
Fayette had their chance to win and it slipped through their fingers. Somehow a Tiger receiver slipped behind the defense, racing towards the end zone uncovered. Davieon Nash lofted the pass high and put it on the money, but the receiver dropped it. In a second the team went from ready to celebrate a mammoth victory to scrambling for a desperate fourth down. Nash did his best, scrambling on fourth and picking up what must have been eight and three-quarters yards out of nine. A crushing hit left him just short and in a lot of pain. A tough effort by Nash and the rest of the Tigers was stuffed by a game Starr's Mill squad. The Panthers had much needed victory of their own on their home turf.
Just like that the two teams were spilt. The Panthers got their much needed victory. The Tigers were left with the frustration of being oh so close to a win.
Davieon Nash, a sophomore, had an excellent game in just his second start. Nash completed eight of 13 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 64 yards and another score on 11 carries.
"He's a tough young'un," Davis said of Nash. "He's still learning. I'm proud of him. His attack mode is unbelievable."
He got a ton of help from the stellar Ashton Jackson. Jackson caught four passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. He also played some lockdown cornerback.
"A lot of our kids are playing both ways," Davis noted. "We call ourselves the Dirty Thirty."
Jollyce Myrick had a good game as well, rushing for 51 yards and a score on 14 carries. Vincent Bey added 69 yards on 12 carries.
Starr's Mill piled up plenty of yardage as well, totalling 208 rushing yards as a team. John Smith led the way with 122 yards and a score on 21 carries. Patrick Mullins added 48 and a touchdown on five carries.
Kyle Moseley threw for 113 yards and a touchdown on eight of 11 passing before he left with an injury. Seth White hauled in four passes for 74 yards and a score.
Starr's Mill will take the win, but they know they have work to do. "We've need to eliminate turnovers," said Phillips. "Defensively, we've got to make plays. Third downs always seem to be our Achilles heel."
On the other side, Fayette County will learn from the tough loss.
"I tell my kids iron sharpens iron. That means that the more adversity we go through, the better we get," Davis said. "Nobody likes a loss, but you learn so much within a loss. We learned from last week and we got better this week. I love the effort from our kids. I love the attitude from our kids. I'm looking forward to this year being a great year. I really am."
Both teams will try to build on a thriller next week when Starr's Mill hosts West Forsyth and Fayette County plays at Whitewater.