Team of the Week ready for big game in South Georgia

There aren't many football seasons that result in 80 or more practices in a season.

For Chad Phillips and 10-3 Starr's Mill, Tuesday was their 79th practice of the year, going back to late January.

After an upset 25-24 overtime win over Dutchtown, Starr's Mill finds itself in the semifinals for the first time since 2010, just a win away from playing for the 5A state championship.

The difference this year, Phillips said, is how competitive and close the Panthers are.

"It means a lot to them, which is the most different thing from years past," he said. "Good teams are led by coaches, but elite teams are player-led."

The Panthers find themselves up against 12-1 powerhouse Warner Robins -- at their house -- in the state semifinal Friday night. The Demons blew out Clarke Central 49-14 last week.

"That in itself is a big stadium, and I'm sure everyone in south Georgia will be there," Phillips said. "I don't think it's going to be a particularly friendly environment for us."

Phillips said the Panthers must control time of possession Friday night, as well as limit explosive plays. He said they'll need to be able to tackle skill players like Warner Robins running backs Jahlen Rutherford and James Smith.

Phillips hopes quarterback Hunter Lawson has a big game, but their ground attack will need to be successful Friday night, starting with running back Kalen Sims, who has more than 4,000 career yards.