Two long first-half scoring drives and two special teams plays helped Bartlett get a lead on Germantown and the Panthers held on for a 16-14 victory Friday, Nov. 18, in the quarterfinals of the state football championship.
Bartlett (11-2) will face Beech (12-1) on Friday, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. at Panthers Stadium for the chance play in the state title game.
The win over Germantown (10-3) avenged a loss to the Red Devils on Sept. 16, a game Bartlett could have won had it recovered a blocked punt in the end zone. Germantown recovered the ball for a safety and was able to hold on for a 17-16 win.
For a time on Friday night, it looked like that same 17-16 score was a real possibility.
“Throughout the playoffs we were hoping they’d win so we could get our rematch,” Bartlett quarterback Braylen Ragland said after the game. “It feels super sweet. They were the only team we lost to in the city, and we wanted to get that done, and we did.”
The Red Devils scored first, taking the opening kickoff in cold conditions 60 yards in 12 plays. Quarterback Isaiah Tate had a couple of runs and completed a pass in the flats to Jamarion Morrow. Running back Malik Mason did the rest, punching it in from a yard out to give Germantown a 7-0 lead.
Bartlett responded on its first possession. Running back Geron Johnson got 10 yards on his first carry. Ragland completed passes to Jade Kneeland and Jeremiah “Snap” Reed, taking the ball to the Germantown 28.
Johnson then took a handoff and got through the line into the secondary, weaving his way to a 28-yard touchdown, tying the game at 7-7.
On its next possession, Germantown got a big running play from Scott Blake and then a pass interference call against Bartlett that took the ball to the Panthers 27 yard line.
But Bartlett defensive back Rahmaan Rinkin tackled Blake for a loss and defensive end Granville Lewis sacked Tate on third-and-15 to force the Red Devils to punt.
That punt was downed at the ½ yard line, putting Ragland in his own end zone to start Bartlett’s next drive with 1:50 left in the first quarter.
Ragland orchestrated that 99 1/2 -yard drive with a combination of runs and passes, including a 37-yard reception to wide receiver Deshaun Catron that put Bartlett at the Germantown 40.
On third-and-goal from the Germantown 9, Ragland rolled out and hit Catron on a short crossing route for a touchdown, capping the long drive. The snap on the extra point attempt was bobbled, so Bartlett led 13-7.
The drive took more than 8 minutes off the clock.
Bartlett then tried an onside kick that was recovered by strong safety Parker Moore, and the Panthers were immediately back on offense starting another drive.
On the first series, Ragland was hit trying to pass and fumbled, but recovered his own fumble.
He orchestrated another long drive with a combination of runs and passes, taking Bartlett to the Germantown 8 yard line with less than 30 seconds left in the half.
Germantown’s defense kept the Panthers out of the end zone, though, forcing three consecutive incomplete passes and Bartlett had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Pierce Rogers, making it 16-7 at halftime.
With Bartlett getting the second half kickoff, it would be about a quarter and a half before Germantown ran another offensive play. Bartlett had the ball the entire second quarter and 1:50 of the first quarter, then held the ball for another 5 minutes or so to start the second half, finally giving the ball up on downs at the Germantown 35.
When the Devils finally got back on offense, Blake made a beautiful catch on a pass from Tate to get the ball to the Panthers 35.
But Bartlett held and the Devils brought out kicker Oziel Hernandez – a semifinalist for 2022 Kicker of the Year in Tennessee – for a 47-yard field goal try.
Rinkin came around the left end and blocked the kick, the second big special teams play for the Panthers, and Bartlett maintained the 16-7 lead.
As the fourth quarter began, Germantown was moving the ball into Bartlett territory. On third-and-4, Tate hit Quinton Brooks in stride for a 39-yard touchdown, making the score 16-14 Bartlett with 9:52 left in the game.
Bartlett’s next drive was cut short by an interception at the Germantown 18.
A field goal would give the Devils the lead, but Bartlett’s defense held. A key play was a deep ball Tate threw on third-and-6 that was broken up by Panthers defensive back Devin Rutherford, and the Devils were forced to punt with less than 5 minutes remaining.
The Panthers made two first downs, one a pass to Snap Reed on third-and-6 at midfield, and Ragland was able to kneel out the clock.
“We knew they were going to make some big plays and we just had to weather the storm,” Ragland said.
Bartlett finished with 192 yards rushing, which helped them sustain those long drives and keep Germantown’s speedy position players on the sidelines. Ragland passed for 122 yards.
Germantown had only 185 yards in total offense, 96 passing and 89 rushing.
Bartlett head coach Lance Tucker said the Panthers had the same game plan despite the cold weather and were not looking to run it more than normal.
“We aren’t changing who we are. Good or bad, we are who we are,” he said.
He complimented Germantown head coach Gene Robinson on the Devils’ season and said it was never about getting revenge for the earlier loss.
“It’s the 13th game of the season and the kids are banged up,” Tucker said. “They just found a way to pull one out.”
Beech will travel to Bartlett for one semifinal game on Nov. 25. Maryville (10-3) travels to Murfreesboro to face Oakland (12-1) in the other semifinal game.
Brentwood was a common opponent for Bartlett and Beech. The Panthers defeated Brentwood 28-7 in the second round of the playoffs; Beech prevailed 27-6 over Brentwood on Oct. 21.