Starr’s Mill out to raise playoff bar

Article and photos courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution –> Original Article Here

Starr’s Mill players and fans celebrate win over Newnan. (Photo courtesy of Starr’s Mill High School.)

The 26 seniors on the Starr’s Mill football team appreciates the idea of making the playoffs – they’ve achieved that goal since they were freshmen. It’s just that they want more this time around.

“They’re kind of hungry,” Starr’s Mill coach Chad Phillips said. “We challenged them the last six months to move past the second round.”

That helps explain the meaning behind the team’s motto for the season: Raise the Bar Higher.

The No. 9-ranked Panthers have been one of the most consistently good programs since its inception. They won the Region 3 championship a year ago, the fifth region title since the program began in 1998, and made the playoffs for the third straight year and 12th time. But this group has a larger goal and can look to the 2010 team, which reached the state championship game, for inspiration.

“I think there are three things you need to have a great program,” Phillips said. “You need good kids with great families and lot of support, you’ve got to have a college coaching staff, and you have to have an administration that will work with you and support you.”

Phillips said all those pieces are in place at Starr’s Mill. Most of the staff members have been there 10 years or longer and quarterbacks coach Brent Moseley, like Phillips, has been there since they cracked open the first box of shoulder pads in 1997. The administration spearheaded the effort to have a new field turf surface installed and the team broke it in last week against Newnan.

Starr’s Mill has players, too. The run-oriented offense – the Panthers run the jet wing-T and the triple option – is led by quarterback Joey DeLuca, B-back Cole Gilley, A-back Nick Brown and Z-wing Mitchell Prowant. All are three-year starters. This week the Panthers will get wide receiver Brandon Rew back after the missed the opener with injury.

DeLuca (6-2, 190) has good speed, can throw the ball effectively and understands the intricacies of the offense. He scored on a 40-yard midline option to get the ball rolling against Newnan.

“He makes good decisions,” Phillips said. “We run three types of options and he made the right read on every play but one last week.”

Gilley is an all-state back who rushed for 1,700 yards and had 400 yards in receptions last season. He ran for 110 yards and three touchdowns in the opener against Newnan.

The defense played well last week after allowing Newnan to drive for a score on its first possession. Phillips singled out Ryan Cockes, who had had an interception, and Coltin Hauser for their performances in the opener.

“They settled down and got a little confidence,” Phillips said.

Starr’s Mill will play at rival Northgate on Friday. The two teams have played each year since 2006 and Class AAAAAA Northgate leads the series 6-5.

Stockbridge defense comes up big: The No. 3-ranked Tigers opened the season with a 9-0 win over Mays, forcing two turnovers and limiting the Raiders to less than 150 yards. Coach Kevin Whitley told the Henry Herald that his strategy of using eight different defense linemen helped keep the defense fresh for four quarters.

“We put our emphasis there. Our defense played well and our coaches did a good job of rotating those guys in and out,” Whitley said. “Depth is big for us.”

Carver back at it: The Panthers (2-0) surged back into the state rankings at No. 10 following a 34-18 win over Tri-Cities. Quarterback Octavious Battle completed 12 of 17 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns and JoQuavious Makes ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns. The Carver defense got stellar efforts from linemen Jatavious Ponder and Solomon Mosley, who each had six tackles for loss.

Keeping up with the Jones (County): The Greyhounds (2-0) whipped Washington County 48-19, which help propel them into the state rankings at No. 8. Teldrick Ross (117 yards, three touchdowns) and Drake Bolus (185 yards, two touchdowns) led the Jones County offense, who has produced 90 points in two games.

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