Starr's Mill preview

Tue, 08/26/2008 - 11:53am
By: Kevin Wandra

The Starr’s Mill Panthers are coming off a season in which they went 5-5 and missed the state playoffs for the first time since 2003.

It was a disappointing season for the Panthers indeed, but Starr’s Mill coach Mike Earwood is focused on the present, not the past.

“I’m just hoping we improve on 5-5 and put ourselves in position to make the state playoffs. I’m optimistic about this season,” Earwood said.

One reason Earwood is optimistic is that six offensive starters return: quarterback Myles Jaye (6-2, 165), running backs Dan Ellis (5-6, 160) and Spencer Penson (5-6, 165), and wide receivers Terrell Tripp (6-0, 170), Lontrell Anderson (6-1, 175) and Matt Ossanna (5-11, 175).

Starr’s Mill’s multiple offense (a mix of the Wing-T and spread) revolves around Jaye, who was impressive in the five starts he received to close last season.

Jaye is an accurate quarterback who is good on his feet. Earwood is expecting Jaye to show significant improvement in his first full season as a starter.

“Myles is a good, experienced athlete,” Earwood said. “He’s a playmaker. I look for him to be better and stronger this season.”

Adam Holley (5-11, 160), an up-and-coming sophomore, will receive some snaps at quarterback, as well.

“He’s very heady,” Earwood said of Holley. “He understands the game and makes good decisions with the ball.”

Starr’s Mill’s starting backfield consists of Ellis, Penson and fullback Isiah Carthern (5-9, 170).

Ellis is 100 percent healthy after recovering from a serious injury to his right leg in a golf cart accident a year and a half ago. He is a receiving and rushing threat, plus he is one of the team’s best all-around athletes.

“It’s good to see Dan running around again at 100 percent,” Earwood said. “He’s a pure athlete with great hands.”

Penson is a shifty-type back with quickness, and Carthern is light and quick, and runs hard between the tackles.

Fullback Stephen Roberts (6-3, 215) and running backs Chris Nowicki (5-11, 185) and Trenton Edwards (5-10, 175) will also get some carries.

One of Starr’s Mill’s strengths is its receiving corps.

Tripp, Anderson and Ossanna are all sure-handed receivers who run precise routes.

Jeffrey Greene (6-4, 185), only a sophomore, is the Panthers’ biggest receiver. He will see extensive playing time in Starr’s Mill’s multiple-receiver sets.

Justin Smith (6-2, 195) and Dwayne Davis (6-0, 210) are vying to start at tight end. Both run the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds, but Davis has the edge in strength; he can power clean 300 pounds and bench-press 270 pounds.

Starr’s Mill’s biggest question mark is its offensive line, where it will be breaking in five new starters: center Kyle Petty (5-11, 240), guards Ryan Weigand (5-9, 250) and Armand Kadkhodaian and tackles Nick Garofola (6-1, 275) and Kris Petry (6-3, 265).

The Panthers are also inexperienced on the defensive side of the ball, with only four returning starters: linebackers Trent Riley and Roberts (6-3, 215), defensive end Derek Brown and free safety Ken Jackson.

The starting defensive linemen in Starr’s Mill’s 4-3 defense are tackles Weigand and Garofola and ends Brown and Chris Gordon (6-2, 260).

Each player is strong, big and aggressive. Brown is the most experienced — he is the lone returning starting defensive lineman — and the strongest — he bench-presses a team-high 370 pounds.

Ufomba Kamalu (6-4, 250) is a backup defensive end with tremendous potential, according to Earwood.

The Panthers had three of the best linebackers in the region last season in Chris Sudduth, Parker duPont and Matt Sweat, but each graduated. Their linebacking corps, though, should be a strength once again, mainly because of middle linebacker Roberts, a converted defensive end, who is one of the most highly touted players in the state.

Roberts has drawn offers from Division I schools across the country, including Mississippi, Mississippi State and Purdue. He is instinctive, with exceptional athleticism, speed and the ability to be a force against both the run and pass.

Roberts is one of Starr’s Mill’s three captains; Garofola and Jackson are the other two.

“Stephen has a chance to be a really special linebacker in college the way he can move,” Roberts said. “He covers so much ground.”

Riley and Chris Nowicki (5-11, 180) start at outside linebacker. Both are good in space and tough.

Starr’s Mill’s secondary lacks experience — Jackson is the lone returning starter — but not talent.

Trenton Edwards (5-10, 170), brother of former Starr’s Mill standout cornerback Johnny Edwards, and Daryl Hunt (5-10, 165) are athletic cornerbacks with good cover skills.

The leader of the secondary is Jackson, an active, high-energy safety.

“Jackson is the quarterback of our secondary,” Earwood said. “He’s a high-character kid who plays with a good motor.”

There is an open competition for the starting strong safety spot between Gerde Fenelon (5-10, 175) and Jeff Stock (6-1, 170).

Fenelon is steady in coverage, and Stock, who is coming back from an knee injury that cut his season short last year, is mobile and physical.

North Carolina State signee Chris Ward will handle all the kicking duties. His best assets are his strong leg as a kicker and his hang time as a punter.

Starr’s Mill opened the season last week, playing Etowah, which has made the state playoffs two consecutive seasons, in the Kell Powerade Classic at the Georgia Dome.
Etowah is one of many teams that make Starr’s Mill’s schedule a daunting one.

“Villa Rica has a great tradition, Sprayberry is loaded, and our subregion (5A-AAAA) is unbelievable,” Earwood said.

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