Rome pounds Starr’s Mill, headed to semis

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL SPORTS - By Tommy Ro­manach Sports Writer

FAYET­TEVILLE — Go­ing into Fri­day’s game, Starr’s Mill’s Pan­thers had home field ad­van­tage over Rome High, play­ing in a sta­dium where it had lost just once all sea­son.

But the Wolves hadn’t lost a sin­gle game all sea­son and didn’t let them feed off of that home field ad­van­tage for very long.

Win­ning the battle of speed, size and over­all phys­i­cal­ity, the topranked Wolves didn’t miss a beat in its first road play­off game in two years and Rome rolled to a 59-10 win against the Pan­thers in the Class 5A state quar­ter­fi­nals. It is Rome’s 25th straight win and gives it a sec­ond straight trip to the semi­fi­nals where the Wolves will host Bu­ford next Fri­day night in a re­match of last year’s 5A state ti­tle game.

“I could kind of tell early in the week that the kids were kind of ex­cited about get­ting on the road. I don’t know why,” Rome coach John Reid said Fri­day night at Starr’s Mill. “But I could tell it wasn’t both­er­ing them, and I thought they did a great job prep­ping for this team.”

Ju­nior quar­ter­back Knox Kadum fin­ished with 291 to­tal yards and three touch­downs, while run­ning back Jamious Grif­fin tal­lied 141 to­tal yards and three scores. Ju­nior wide re­ceiver Xavier Roberts-Don­ald­son tal­lied 109 all-pur­pose yards and two touch­downs.

Rome ( 13- 0) fin­ished the game with 344 rush­ing yards as the of­fen­sive line built gaps for the Wolves’ skill play­ers all night. It was Rome’s phys­i­cal pres­ence at the line of scrim­mage which con­trib­uted the most to a 42-0 Rome run that be­gan in the sec­ond quar­ter.

No. 8 Starr’s Mill only trailed 17-10 with four min­utes left in the first half, but a pair of key Kadum com- ple­tions led to an 8-yard touch­down run by Grif­fin with 3:13 left. Af­ter forc­ing a Pan­thers three-and-out, the Wolves scored again on a Kadum 24-yard run to go up 31-10 at the half.

On the sec­ond play of the third quar­ter, Kadum found Je­vard Wil­liams for a 77-yard touch­down pass, ex­tend­ing the lead. The Wolves’ Der­ri­cus Smith blocked a Starr’s Mill punt min­utes later, and Grif­fin scored on a 19-yard touch­down run on the very next play, Putting Rome up 45-10.

“The de­fense be­gan to step up and make plays, and that just mo­ti­vated us on of­fense to put it in the end zone for them,” Kadum said. “They were giv­ing us great field po­si­tion all night. When you have a de­fense like that, it makes it a lot eas­ier to cap­i­tal­ize.”

The only of­fen­sive gaffe for Rome came on the first drive when Mar­quez Kirby’s 51-yard run ended in a fum­ble that went through the end zone for a touch­back. A Grif­fin touch­down run and Kadum touch­down pass to Roberts-Don­ald­son still kept the Wolves up 14-0 af­ter one quar­ter.

The Pan­thers (11-2) man­aged a pair of scor­ing drives, in­clud­ing a 5-yard touch­down run from Kalen Simms in the sec­ond. Those drives were aided by a few gad­get plays, in­clud­ing a hid­den ball play and a pass to an of­fen­sive line­man. But when Starr’s Mill ran out of ways to fool Rome, the vis­it­ing de­fense be­gan to hunt.

“They tried ev­ery trick in the book, and our kids still only gave them 10 points,” Reid said. “The big­gest thing was our kids stopped their base of­fense early. They couldn’t run their of­fense, at all.”

Roberts- Don­ald­son scored his sec­ond touch­down of the game on a 45- yard punt re­turn touch­down in the third, mak­ing it 52-10 and trig­ger­ing a run­ning clock. Rome scored once more, on a 5- yard run from sopho­more Nick Burge.

Next up for Rome is a Bu­ford team that is seek­ing re­venge for the end of last sea­son. Suf­fice it to say, Rome play­ers are ea­ger for round two as well.

“It’s just amaz­ing to get to play this team again. I mean, it is a re­match of the state ti­tle game,” Rome de­fen­sive line­man Ja’Quon Grif­fin said. “And to be do­ing it at Bar­ron Sta­dium, it is go­ing to be lit.”

Jeremy Ste­wart / RN-T

Rome High’s Jamious Grif­fin (6) finds a hole in the line to run the ball through on the way to a 17-yard touch­down against Starr’s Mill dur­ing the third quar­ter of Fri­day’s Class 5A state quar­ter­fi­nal game in Fayet­teville.

Jeremy Ste­wart / RN-T

Rome High’s Der­ri­cus Smith (41) blocks a punt by Starr’s Mill’s Ryan Cockes (10) dur­ing the third quar­ter.

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