The Imhotep Institute Charter High Panthers football team got everything backwards in its 53-7 win over the Springfield Twp. Spartans in the PIAA Class AA playoffs on Saturday night.
Not missing a beat after last season’s drive to the state-semifinal game, the Panthers (10-1) outscored the competition 515-125 this season, its lone loss coming at the hands of a nationally ranked team from Maryland.
But on Saturday night, with the type of atmosphere that speaks to a seasonal shift toward coldness, the Panthers didn’t follow common form by sprinting out to an early lead (one game saw seven touchdowns on eight offensive plays) and coasting through the second half.
The Panthers first three possessions saw an interception and pair of lost fumbles. Many dropped passes were involved as well. Slowly, that started to change, though.
On the first play of the second quarter, Panthers captain Deandre Scott returned a punt 41 yards for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead. The Spartans quickly responded with a 49-yard touchdown pass, but the extra point would be their final one of the night.
With 4:20 left in the half, Imhotep’s Nasir Bonner would score a rushing touchdown that gave his team a 12-7 lead at halftime.
Then, everything changed
As the third quarter approached, Imhotep’s Head Coach Albie Crosby told NewsWorks it had just witnessed his team’s worst half of the season.
What would ensue proved Crosby right.
In the second half, Mike Waters rushed for three touchdowns, Bonner added another pair and wide receiver Terrill Gillette caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andre Dreuitt.
The Panthers’ 41 unanswered-points onslaught brought the final score of the game to 53-7.
“We’ve played two different halves like this all year, but usually we’ve scored 40 at the half. This time, we had to come back,” Crosby said after the game. “Fighting through adversity. That’s what I told the players at halftime: This is the best-case scenario for us. And, they answered.”
Rematch vs. old friends
With the victory, the Panthers will face West Catholic — a school where Crosby served as an assistant coach before moving over to East Germantown before last season — on Friday night at Benjamin Johnston Stadium.
The AA city championship game is a rematch from last November’s 40-8 playoff win for Imhotep.
On a personal level, Crosby noted that the West Catholic game does stand out on the schedule because of the ties it holds for him and his son Devin, who plays for the Panthers. He said West Catholic Head Coach Brian Fluck remains a close friend and he still knows players on the team from his time there.
“Last year was a little tougher,” said Crosby after urging his team to resist any trash-talk from next week’s foes on Facebook and Twitter, “but I’m all in with these guys now.”
The Imhotep/West Catholic game is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday at the Germantown Super Site, Woolston Ave. and East Sedgwick St.
A gallery of photos from Saturday night’s game will be posted as soon as it’s available.