Game of the Week: Starr’s Mill vs. LaGrange Preview

ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - LaGrange and Starr’s Mill headline the Game of the Week. This week’s Drive For The GHSA State Title matchup is between Walton and Marietta who will face off on Peachtree TV at 8 PM this Friday. The game of the week features the first matchup between two teams facing off for the first time in region four, 4A classification. Four 3-0 teams are heading into region play this week, including Troup, Whitewater, LaGrange, and Starr’s Mill. LaGrange dominated their non-region schedule and averaged 42 points along the way. Starr’s Mill averaged 30 points a game, while their defense surrendered less than 10 points a game.

LaGrange coach Matt Napier previews the region matchup against Starr’s Mill.

“Obviously, Starr’s Mill is a veteran team that has been there year in and year out in the playoffs and playoff hunt. They have played a lot of really good football,” said Napier. “They are well coached and have great athletes. They have weapons on both sides of the ball that are very worthy of our attention. They present problems in all three phases of the game.”

There are several matchups to watch out for in this game. One is Starr’s Mill playmakers vs. LaGrange’s vaunted, talented secondary. Starr’s Mill has some playmakers on the outside in Lincoln DeLaere and their highly recruited 6′6 tight end Josh Phifer.

“Our big recruit is our tight end Josh Phifer, who has ten offers. Right now, he is committed to Liberty,” said Phillips. “He’s made plays. He’s a big kid at 6′6 and catches everything thrown in his direction. It’s our goal to create a mismatch with high school DBs, so we move him all over the place trying to find a mismatch. Logan, our quarterback, is smart enough to know to give the playmakers a chance to make plays, and he will get it to him. He’s made two or three big catches already this season.”

“On the back end, we have a couple of seniors who are really good in Jeffery Sims and Marcus Jones,” said Napier. “Denorayon Reid is a player for us who is a rising star. He had four tackles last week at his corner spot. He is just a dynamic player. He caught a touchdown that ended up getting called back. He’s just a great player with the ball in his hands.”

The other matchup to pay close attention to is the high-powered offense of LaGrange vs. the great defense of Starr’s Mill.

Starr’s Mills head coach Chad Phillips talked about the challenge LaGrange presents on offense and some keys to slowing them down.

“If we can limit an opponent to seven, maybe eight possessions, and we stop them three times, we feel like we have a chance to win,” said Phillips. We got to take the ball and play keep away from LaGrange because they are so dangerous. They got a quarterback, two running backs, and a wideout that are just a threat to us, so we will have to play keep away from them.

“We are just carrying over our system and plugging in the guys who have worked hard to get in those positions for us. The expectation when we get out there is to be successful. I think it starts with execution, focus, and taking care of the football,” said Napier. “Eliminating penalties, eliminating buzz from a scheme standpoint, and the guys have really bought in. We have some talented guys who have worked hard to become bigger, faster, and stronger in our offense program to be able to do what they have done so far.”

In a crucial game with the start of region play, both teams get off to a good start with several teams capable of winning this loaded region. Any loss could hurt the chances of either team making the postseason.

“I think there are six teams, maybe seven that are top ten type caliber teams that we will face. There are going to be some really good teams in our region that could win another region,” said Napier. “We will find out as the season plays out. I think there are going to be some good teams left out. Any team that makes the playoffs in this region is going to be really good.”

Key players to watch for both teams are QB Logan Inagawa for Starr’s Mill and QB Jalen Brown for LaGrange.

“Brown is one of the hardest working guys in the building. He was a guy all offseason that committed himself to the weight room and becoming a bigger, faster, stronger player,” said Napier. “In the passing game, he’s been pretty darn accurate. He’s been able to execute what we do from a passing standpoint. He can also run the ball. He’s 6′1, 220 pounds, and can really move. He’s been able to help us succeed.”

“Logan Inagawa is a sophomore. I’ve been at Starr’s Mill for 25 years, and very rarely do sophomores get to play a lot, especially at quarterback,” said Phillips. “Back to the competitor thing, (Sunday) he was here with three receivers running routes and working on stuff. He does Cam Newton seven-on-seven stuff all summer long and plays football constantly. He studies film and meets with our coordinator and quarterback coach constantly. We had a big 4th and 10 conversion last week. He threw a sell route for a big first down. He’s just a gamer. You love being around those kids that are highly motivated from within.”

Both coaches gave their thoughts on the keys of the game and what their teams need to do to come out with a win Friday Night.

“We have to play great team defense and eliminate the big play. We have to force them to drive the ball and eliminate turnovers,” said Phillips. “We have to play keep away, and go three and a half yards per play. We will have a chance if we play great defense, don’t miss tackles, don’t turn it over, and eliminate mental mistakes.”

“We need to execute at a high level and minimize mistakes which are turnovers and controllable penalties. Those are the pre-snap and post-snap,” said Napier. “We have to watch the ball and not be offsides. I think any time you win the turnover battle, you win. On offense, we want to make sure we take care of the football. On defense, we want to make sure we create turnovers.”

LaGrange will be home for this game. Kickoff is at 7:30 PM at Callaway Stadium in LaGrange, Georgia.