Revenge won out over a historical run. The Starr's Mill Panthers used a wild run of 35 unanswered points to topple the previously unbeaten McIntosh Chiefs 42-27 on Friday night.
On paper, the two teams couldn't have come in at more opposite points. The Chiefs were sitting pretty at 6-0, the finest start in school history by far after a 35-15 win over Whitewater. The Panthers were scuffling at 2-4, coming off a big loss to Creekside. As is the case with many heated rivalries, you can throw the records out the window. Determined teams bring out the best for their rivals.
Early on it looked like the records would prevail. McIntosh rolled out to a 20-0 lead in the second quarter. Starr's Mill could have backed down. Instead they bucked up and got to work. "We talked about being resilient. We told them before, we're going to have some bad plays tonight, but we'll have some good plays," said Starr's Mill coach Chad Phillips. "We had to overcome a deficit, but these guys don't quit. There's a lot to be said about the character of these kids. You can win a lot of games and you can be successful in life with character."
It certainly didn't hurt to have a little extra motivation. The Panthers were likely still stinging from last year's loss to McIntosh. It was the first time in the football rivalry that the Chiefs had prevailed and Starr's Mill had been waiting a year for their revenge. When the final buzzer sounded on this night, the fans were so ecstatic to be back on top that they charged the field.
It took a major effort to get to that point. After giving up 20 first half points, the Panther defense rebounded to hold the Chiefs to just seven second half points. From Luke Schoolcraft to Garrett Houston to Mitchell Ray and on down the line, the Panthers unleashed bonecrunching hit after bonecrunching hit.
Meanwhile, the Starr's Mill offense had perhaps their best performance of the year. A 28 point fourth quarter was the difference as they closed the game with authority en route to 444 total yards. As the game wore on, running back John Smith wore down the defense. What a season it's been so far for Smith, who missed all of last season after breaking his leg early in the first practice. He bruised the defense for 175 yards and a score on 28 carries.
"Now you know what we were missing last year. He's such a playmaker," said Phillips. "What a kid he is. You talk about dealing with adversity, to be where he is is just unbelievable."
Quarterback Kyle Moseley had perhaps the finest all-around game of his career. Moseley completed 15 of 22 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, then added 50 yards rushing and two more scores on the ground.
Even in defeat, McIntosh quarterback Andrew Johnson wowed everyone in attendance. Johnson completed 26 of 40 passes for 287 yards with four touchdowns and a pick in desperation time. He also ran for 50 yards. With the chips down, he just kept pushing the Chiefs forward, making countless unbelievable throws. It caught the attention of the opposition.
"That quarterback (Andrew) Johnson is one of the best quarterbacks we've seen in years," said Phillips. "I'd rank him up there with Cam Newton and Eric Berry when he was at Creekside. He threw three balls that there was no way to complete them and he completed them."
For most of the first half, it looked clearly like McIntosh's game. If anyone in the crowd, and it was a completely packed house, left at halftime they would probably be shocked to hear the final outcome. The Chiefs raced out to a 20-0 lead and looked every bit like a 6-0 team.
The Chiefs chewed up yardage in chunks on the first drive. The first two plays of the night totaled 45 yards, one a 12 yard completion to Trey Walters and one a 33 yard run by Johnson. Duke Kinamon played a huge role on the series, catching three passes for 32 yards, including a two yard touchdown. The highlight though was Kinamon laying out for a spectacular 16 yard catch on third and long. Nick Alvey's extra point put McIntosh ahead with just three minutes gone in the game.
Starr's Mill's first drive was less successful. A big late hit penalty negated one first down. McIntosh's Jacob Bolen twice got into the backfield to kill the possession.
It was Bill Magill's turn to make some plays on the next Chief try. Magill started it off with a 21 yard catch on second and 20 despite a huge hit by Melvin Broomfield. After dropping a potential long game, Magill kept his head up and converted a third and long with a 20 yard catch. The drive was capped off with a sensational play by Andrew Johnson and Josh Ange. On third and long, the Panthers sent a blitzer that got through untouched. Johnson somehow shook him off and recovered to throw a dart to a leaping Ange in the back of the end zone. Ange was leveled by a defender but got his toe in bounds for a 16 yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Johnson had another spectacular play up his sleeve on the next drive. After moving down the field with a succession of pass plays, the Chiefs faced a third and goal from eight yards out. Despite perfect coverage, Johnson went for Duke Kinamon up the left sideline and somehow placed the ball perfectly for a touchdown. It looked like an impossible throw, but somehow he did it.
Starr's Mill showed their first spark on the extra point though. Dion Munerlyn burst through the middle of the line to block the extra point and make it a 20-0 game. Perhaps it was what the team needed to get fired up with most of the first half already gone.
The Panthers did just what they needed to do to still the momentum before halftime, driving 80 yards to paydirt. The big plays came on an 18 yard screen pass from Moseley to Marcel Ray and a 30 yard run by John Smith. Still, the Panthers looked like they might be held off the scoreboard as they faced a fourth and goal from the two yard line. They went with a jet sweep to Patrick Mullins who slid into the end zone to narrow it to 20-7 with just 18 seconds till the half.
Getting on the board before halftime was huge for the Panthers. They took the low of trailing by three scores and stole away the momentum. They came out fired up in the second half.
After the Starr's Mill offense started with a three and out, their defense got the ball rolling. Cory Carter delivered a big lick on a third and one inside Panther territory to stop the runner short and set up fourth down. On fourth down, the Chiefs couldn't execute the pitch and Mitchell Ray dropped the runner behind the line to turn over the ball.
The Panthers made their drive count, pushing 62 yards for a score. The big play came when they converted a third down with a 23 yard pass from Moseley to Josh Hughes. McIntosh looked like they got out of it when Starr's Mill lined up to go for it on fourth and short from 12 yards away, but got whistled for a false start. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they gave them new life when they also got nailed for an unsportsmanlike conduct call to renew the drive.
Starr's Mill then tried something new, lining up the towering Terence Harper out wide. Moseley lofted it up to the corner of the end zone and Harper easily pulled it in for a four yard touchdown to slice the margin to 20-14.
McIntosh tried to get their offense rolling again early in the fourth quarter, but stalled out at midfield. Starr's Mill's Sam Joines aided in the process with a huge tackle for a loss to force a third and long.
A good punt by Charlie Goedtke pinned Starr's Mill back on their own 12. The Panthers would claw out of the hole quickly. On the third play, Moseley found Harper across the middle. Harper picked up the first down, but still had a man in front of him. Harper stiffed armed him away and raced the length of the field for an 83 yard touchdown. Brandon Oot's extra point gave the Panthers their first lead of the day at 21-20 with less than three minutes gone in the fourth quarter.
It was quite the breakout party for Harper, who only caught two passes but both for touchdowns. "Wow. We finally put him in a position to make plays and he did. We're just proud of him," Phillips beamed.
McIntosh would not be able to respond yet, handing the ball back after a three and out. Starr's Mill rode their hoss, John Smith, back to the end zone in short order. Smith chewed up sixty yards in four plays, setting the table for Moseley to score on a one yard run for a 28-20 lead.
Still, McIntosh had more than enough time to answer back. All they had to do was take care of the ball. They didn't and the worst happened to the Chiefs. On the ensuing kickoff, Michael Runyan punched the ball loose from the return man and Luke Schoolcraft pounced on it at the 20 yard line. On the next play, John Smith followed the blocking on a perfectly executed stretch play for a 20 yard touchdown and a 35-20 lead with 5:48 left to play.
It was a critical blow to the Chiefs' chances. Instead of being behind with plenty of time to play, they had given up two touchdowns in a span of twenty seconds. Their chips were certainly down, but they didn't give up. After a booming Elijah Bragg kickoff, Andrew Johnson steadied the team and led them on a 80 yard scoring drive in just one minute and twelve seconds. The capper was a leaping four yard touchdown pass to Trey Walters to make it a 35-27 game with 4:36 remaining.
McIntosh needed a defensive stand to get another shot at it. The Starr's Mill offense wouldn't be denied. The key play came when the Chiefs thought they had them stalled right off the bat, but on third and eight, Moseley hit Marcel Ray for nine yards to move the chains. They slowly pounded their way down the field before Moseley iced the game with a 27 yard touchdown run. The Starr's Mill defense dealt the final blow when Gerren Smith Jr. intercepted a desperation heave by McIntosh.
Marcel Ray had a big night, hauling in seven passes for 68 yards.
McIntosh got a stellar performance by Trey Walters, who caught 11 passes for 135 yards and a score. Duke Kinamon caught six for 54 yards and two scores. Josh Ange added three for 35 and a touchdown.
The win runs Starr's Mill's record to 3-4. They will look to continue their winning ways this week on the road against the Northgate Vikings. McIntosh drops to 6-1. They will travel to face the Creekside Seminoles.