Class AAAAA Football Blog: Veteran Starr’s Mill team looks for depth

A year ago, the Starr’s Mill football program was looking for 17 starters in the spring. They found them, too, and wound up winning the Region 3 championship for the third straight year. 

As Chad Phillips prepares for his 10th season as head coach of the Panthers, this spring’s mission is a little different. There’s no need to identify 17 starters. He’s got them. The goal this spring is to plug a few holes and find some depth that will be needed if they want to play deep into the season. 

Starr’s Mill will begin spring practice on May 6. It will conclude with the annual Black and Blue scrimmage on May 17 at 5 p.m.

“We’ve got 17 starters back and we’re pretty excited about that,” Phillips said. “We’ve got to establish some depth and we’ve got to know who the backups are going to be at every position.”

Phillips said the staff may experiment with a couple players at different positions, but the Starr’s Mill team that will be on display in 2019 is going to look an awful lot like the one that ran the tables in Region 3. 

One thing that won’t change is the offense. Starr’s Mill runs the Jet Wing-T and runs it better than most. It’s one place you’ll never see the spread offense, at least as long as Phillips is in charge. 

“Our kids are academy type kids and it fits them,” Phillips said. And because there are fewer and fewer wing-T teams, today’s defenses know less about stopping them.

The Starr’s Mill offense is led by running back Kalen Sims (5-9, 165, Sr.), who has rushed for 3,000 yards in his career, and quarterback Hunter Lawson (6-0, 175, Sr.). Sims was the Fayette County Offensive Player of the Year in 2018 when he rushed for 1,482 yards and 17 touchdowns. Lawson ran for 334 yards and seven touchdowns and threw for 415 yards and five touchdowns. 

The offensive line, led by three-year starting center Jeff Tiller, returns intact. Two assistant coaches have spent the last year working with players in the weight room, trying to find players who can add depth. The Panthers averaged 311 yards rushing per game in 2018. 

The defense is led by juniors Cole Bishop at linebacker Cole Bishop and defensive back Wes Haney.

Starr’s Mill has enjoyed an impressive run since Phillips took over for Mike Earwood in 2010. Over the last four seasons the Panthers are 21-3 in region play and 31-9 in the regular season. They reached the third round of the playoffs in 2017. 

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