With its state championships and former players in the NFL, Sandy Creek has been the blueblood program in Fayette County for the better part of two decades. Starr’s Mill, which has a strong history of its own, has been relegated to living in the Patriots’ shadow.
So it was not just another non-region game, particularly for visiting Starr’s mill, which got a pair of long field goals from junior kicker Michael Lantz and another 100-yard night from senior running back Cole Gilley in a 21-6 win at Sandy Creek Friday night.
“They’d beaten our kids in the middle school championship and in JV,” said Starr’s Mill Coach Chad Phillips, whose club evened the series at three wins apiece between the two schools. “We’ve always kind of taken a back seat to them. We told them it was time to fight back.”
Gilley finished with 104 yards on 17 carries for the Panthers (4-0), including a 23-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to ice the win.
It was the Starr’s Mill defense that kept the game under control. While Sandy Creek outgained the Panthers 303-260, the Patriots (3-1) never could punch the ball into the end zone. The Panther defense recorded two interceptions and 10 tackles for negative yardage, including a pair of big stops by Coltin Houser, who twice ran down Sandy Creek quarterback Matthew Williams behind the line of scrimmage.
“He had his back to me so he couldn’t see me,” Houser said, “so I took a chance.”
Starr’s Mill scored first, driving 37 yards before Michael Lantz kicked a 50-yard field goal.
The Panthers upped the lead to 9-0 with an eight-play, 69-yard drive, capped with Joey DeLuca’s 28-yard pass to Brandon Lew. Sandy Creek blocked the extra point to keep it 9-0.
The Patriots, who scored 127 points in their first three games, couldn’t get out of their own way in the first half, committing five penalties for 40 yards, the costliest of which was a holding call that wiped out a 30-yard touchdown run by Rashad Amos midway through the second period.
Still, After Starr’s Mill’s first two possessions, the Patriot defense clamped down. With a fumble recovery at the Starr’s Mill 30 by Sandy Creek’s Nick Toomer, the second period included a stretch of 24 straight plays that started in Panther territory.
Sandy Creek’s David Gonzalez kicked a 17-yard field goal with three seconds left in the half to cut Starr’s Mill’s lead to 9-3.
The Patriots seemed poised to take advantage of great field position early in the fourth quarter, forcing a Lantz to punt from the Panther end zone, but Sandy Creek muffed the punt and Starr’s Mill’s Sean King recovered at the Patriots’ 45.
Six plays later Lantz’ second field goal, a 47-yarder early in the fourth quarter, extended the lead to 12-3.
Gonzalez’ second field goal made it 12-6 early in the fourth period, but a safety made it 14-6, and Gilley’s 23-yard touchdown put the game away.
Jordan Clark rushed for 125 yards on 21 carries for Sandy Creek.
Starr’s Mill 3 6 3 9 – 21
Sandy Creek 0 3 3 0 – 6
SM – FG Michael Lantz 50
SM- Joey DeLuca 28 pass to Brandon Lew (kick blocked)
SC – FG David Gonzalez 17
SM- FG Lantz 47
SC – FG Gonzalez 31
SM – Safety (penalty in Sandy Creek end zone)
SM – Cole Gilley 23 run (Lantz kick)