DENVER - For the second-straight season, Starmount has run into a buzzsaw in the second round of the 2A state playoffs.
Last season, the Rams were upended by defending state champion Salisbury in the second round. This year, Starmount was paired up with the third-highest scoring offense in the 2A in East Lincoln.
The Rams limited the Mustangs’ high-powered offense for much of the game, but a late touchdown and safety ended Starmount’s season 37-24 in Denver Friday night.
Through the first three quarters of the game, the Rams answered every East touchdown with a score of their own to stay within striking distance.
After the Mustangs drove down the field on the opening possession of the game, Dominique Smith plowed in from one yard out to give East a quick 7-0 advantage.
Chaston Martin and the Rams responded on their second possession when the senior ran it in from the four-yard line to knot the game at 7-7.
After a Starmount fumble, gunslinger quarterback Garrett Young hooked up with Chaz Surratt on a four-yard strike to give the Mustangs a 14-7 advantage.
On the ensuing kickoff, James Watson fielded the kickoff and darted 85 yards through the East return team for the game-tying score early in the second quarter.
Before the half, Marquise Pharr gave the Mustangs the 21-14 lead heading into the locker room with a 12-yard touchdown run.
On their second drive of the second half, Will Simpson capped a long drive with a one-yard burst to bring the Rams even at 21-all.
Facing the possibility of seeing Starmount end their season for the second-consecutive year, East Lincoln turned up its level of intensity on both sides of the ball and began to distance themselves.
Young once again found Surratt on the receiving end of a 44-yard dart to put the Mustangs up for good at 28-21.
After a Parker Gunnell field goal to cut the lead to 28-24, the East defense forced a safety on defense. The Mustangs then recovered the ensuing onside kick.
East drove down the field and found the game-sealing score with a one-yard run by Scott McMichaels with 31 ticks left on the clock.
The Mustangs held on for the 37-24 victory to avenge last season’s 21-13 loss to the Rams in the first round in Boonville.
Martin powered Starmount’s offense in his final game with 93 yards on the ground and 40 yards through the air. Hunter Myers and Watson added 37 and 34 yards, respectively, as the Rams racked up 227 yards on the ground.
Samuel Stone finished 6-for-12 through the air for 44 yards, while Martin found Will Lambert on a 40-yard strike on a halfback pass.
Martin capped his Starmount career with 1,137 yards on 139 carries with 16 rushing touchdowns in his senior campaign.
The stout Ram defense surrendered the most points of the season, with Young completing 14-of-19 passes for 240 yards on two scores.
Starmount’s season comes to an abrupt end at 10-2 with two losses in its final three games.
Former Ram quarterback Christian Hurt was honored at the game by East Lincoln head coach Mike Byus. Hurt broke his neck in last seasons’ matchup with the Mustangs.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.