Moments before kickoff in Friday night’s PIAA District 12 AA Football Championship Game, several West Catholic Burrs circled up and chanted, “I believe that we will win.”
One minute and five seconds of game time later at Benjamin Johnston Stadium, they would trail the Imhotep Institute Charter Panthers by a touchdown courtesy of a one-yard quarterback keeper that Andre Dreuitt said even his teammates didn’t see coming.
“Nobody knew but me,” he said with a smile on the sideline about changing the play call at the line of scrimmage.
Four quarters later, the Panthers were the team that knew they won 48-8 in a blowout which saw Imhotep backups get on the field for much of the fourth quarter.
How they scored
Dreuitt would add another touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter for a 14-point Imhotep lead.
That lead would hit 21 points when Dreuitt found running back Nasir Bonner with a short fourth-down pass that turned into a 26-yard touchdown with 1:45 left in the first half.
Less than a minute later, wide receiver DJ Moore would make an acrobatic 45-yard reception that led to a one-yard Tyliek Raynor run and 28-0 halftime lead.
The second half would see much of the same from an Imhotep team seeking to surpass last season’s state-semifinal run.
Raynor scored a second touchdown from 16 yards after running back Mike Waters moved the ball upfield and Nasir Lewis hauled in a 29-yard pass with 7:32 remaining in the third quarter.
Then, Lewis added a touchdown to give the Panthers a 41-0 lead at the end of the third. (That score came after each team turned the ball over.)
In the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Naeem Bonner handed the ball off to sophomore Ramir Johnson, listed as a linebacker, for a 40-yard touchdown run with fewer than seven minutes remaining.
To their credit, the Burrs kept fighting despite not being within striking distance since the game’s early minutes.
Junior quarterback Antwain McCollum hit receiver Ahkil Crumpton with a highlight-reel 54-yard pass that set up a Rae’Quan Williams touchdown with fewer than three minutes left.
As time expired on the clock, the Imhotep Panthers celebrated their 48-8 city championship by chasing Head Coach Albie Crosby onto the field with a Gatorade cooler for showering purposes.
“Anytime you play West Catholic, and beat West Catholic, who’ve won eight Catholic League titles, a storied program, it means a lot,” said Crosby, who used to be an assistant coach for the Burrs before coming to Imhotep.
One downside for Imhotep was seeing Temple-bound lineman Aaron Ruff aggravating an ankle injury in the second quarter. He did not return to the game, but it was said to be a precautionary move.
What’s next for Tep?
Thanks to a scheduling oddity, the Panthers must wait a week to find out who they’ll play in the next round of the PIAA playoffs.
The Lake-Lehman Knights (Luzerne County, near Wilkes-Barre) face the Catasauqua Rough Riders (Northampton County, near Allentown) next week. The winner faces Imhotep on Nov. 30.
Two days before that next playoff game, however, the Panthers (from East Germantown) will face the MLK High Cougars (from West Oak Lane) in a Thanksgiving game at Johnston Stadium.
Should MLK defeat the favored Archbishop Wood Vikings on Saturday, they too would be looking at a playoff game within two days of a newly blossoming Thankgiving rivalry game, replacing the Germantown/MLK game of old.
A new Turkey Day tradition?
After Imhotep doused Crosby with water, and cheerleaders saluted the team, the Panthers were presented with the PIAA District 12 AA championship plaque.
Robert Coleman, the district chairman, lauded the team for their on-field successes and the trickle-down effect of winning “for the mailman who delivers mail to your door in the neighborhood … and the barbershops, where they’ll be talking about how you won tomorrow.”
Then, he ceded honoring responsibilities to his vice-chair, former GHS Head Coach Michael Hawkins, who presented Crosby with the plaque.
Calling the Thanksgiving game “The Legacy Bowl,” an idea he attributed to conversations with peers at MLK, he told Hawkins, “We will represent Germantown. We don’t want you to be forgotten.
“We want the people of Germantown to know that they can come back, that this game is still for the whole community.”
For now, though, Panthers coaches plan to scout potential playoff opponents after a week in which they’ll have a tournament of their own.
At Tuesday’s practice, sophomores will face juniors in a seven-on-seven game with the winner facing the seniors on Wednesday. And who do the winners of that game draw in Thursday’s game? “The freshmen and coaches.”
A photo gallery from Friday night’s Panthers/Burrs game will be added to this post over the weekend.