The Panther defense wraps up a Wolverine.
(Photo by Kathy Gloer)
By Josh Akeman
Starr's Mill came up just short on Friday in what was ended up being a thrilling matchup with the West Forsyth Wolervines. In a game that saw six lead changes in the second half, Starr's Mill kept on fighting but their final drive stalled and they ended up with a 33-29 loss.
While it was tough to have this one slip away, it's notable that West Forsyth rolled over the Panthers last year, winning 63-14. This year's game, on the other hand, was a competitive matchup from start to finish which featured two great rushing attacks.
Star running back John Smith rolled up 187 yards and three touchdowns, while Dion Munerlyn added in 59 yards of his own and Satchel Goodrich tacked on 37 and a touchdown. The Panthers got 280 of their 389 total yards on the ground, besting West Forsyth's 227 rushing yards and 378 total yards.
Unfortunately, the Wolverines got a decisive 60 yard chunk of their total on a come from behind drive that gave them a 33-29 advantage with only two and a half minutes left.
The game opened with some sloppy play from both teams. West Forsyth's Quarterback Hampton McConnell was dangerous with his legs in the game but threw two interceptions early. Unfortunately Starr's Mill returned the favor, fumbling the ball back after both interceptions. From there, the Wolverine offense got going, driving down the field to put up the first score of the game and put the Panthers in an early 7-0 hole.
Starr's Mill came back with a drive of its own, highlighted by a fourth down conversion on a Dion Munerlyn run. A couple plays later, Smith would break loose up the middle on his way to a 27 yard touchdown run that would tie the game 7-7 early in the second quarter.
Starr's Mill made some good defensive plays on the ensuing drive, forcing West Forsyth into a long third down and dropping McConnell for a sack, but the Wolverines still managed to make some plays and find the end zone on a quarterback keeper. A missed extra point gave West Forsyth a 13-7 lead that it would carry into halftime.
The second half was an absolute slugfest, with each team trading the lead down to the wire.
West Forsyth took the kick to start the half, but quickly gave the ball away on a fumble at their own 37. Starr's Mill immediately capitalized with a 37 yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper from Satchel Goodrich. After tacking on the extra point, the Panthers were up 14-13.
West Forsyth was pretty methodical with their next drive, taking advantage of good starting field position. After scoring from 11 yards out, they went for a two point conversion which Starr's Mill shut down, making it a five point game at 19-13.
Starr's Mill would get the benefit of another Wildcat miscue later on in the third quarter, scooping up a fumble that gave them a first down on the Wildcat 46 yard line. The defense battled to keep Starr's Mill from cashing in on the turnover, but the Panthers managed two fourth down conversions and Smith punched it in for another touchdown, giving them a 22-19 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
The lead wouldn't last long for the Panthers, though, as West Forsyth came right back and scored again, going up 26-22 with eight minutes left.
While it was hard to imagine the teams could keep going back and forth, it only got more exciting from there. Starr's Mill scrapped and clawed on their next drive, converting multiple third downs on an 80 yard drive that ended with Smith busting it into the endzone again on fourth down.
With a 29-26 lead and a little over two and a half minutes to go it felt like Starr's Mill had seized the momentum. Instead, West Forsyth responded with a three play, sixty yard touchdown drive, turning the tables again as they went up 33-29 with under two minutes to go.
The Panthers had to score a touchdown to win, and looked like they might pull it off. Starting from their own 20, they drove down the field quickly, missing narrowly on a throw that could have been a huge play. A roughing the passer penalty by the Wolverines pushed the Panthers across midfield, and a few more plays got them down to the Wolverine 22 yard line.
Unfortunately, the drive stalled and West Forsyth got to run the last thirty seconds of clock out.
The loss puts Starr's Mill at 1-2 on the season. This Friday, the Panthers will host Mount Zion, Jonesboro.