By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The last time the Bartlett Panthers played Germantown in November, Head Coach Gene Robinson III and his Red Devils were sent home.
In a year much changed with the Panthers being led by former Germantown Head Coach Chris Smith. Instead of playing in the Class 6A Quarterfinals, the Panthers vs. Red Devils rematch took place Friday night in the Second Round.
Robinson and his Red Devils also entered the 2023 playoff as a No. 1 and earned the right to host the game Bartlett Friday night in the Germantown Football Stadium.
Another difference from 2022, Germantown was victorious 35-16 over the Panthers to return to the Class 6A Quarterfinals next week.
“We came out fast and started out strong,” Robinson said. “Obvisously we have to clean up some things. I don’t like how we played in the middle of the game but I did like how we put them away at the end.
“There are a lot of things we have to clean up,” he continued. “We’ll come in and get it cleaned up because we have a big one next Friday.”
Germantown earned the right to play Houston in the next round jumping ahead 21-3. Six minutes into the game against Bartlett, the Red Devils took the lead 7-0 when Jamarion Morrow capped off the Germantown drive with a 1-yard TD run.
Panther Devin Rutherford had a response on the kickoff returning the ball deep into Red Devil territory. That set up a Zach Clutch field goal to make the tally 7-3.
The big plays continued with Germantown responding 16 seconds later when BJ Blake blasted up the field for an 80-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-3.
Germantown (12-0) grew its lead to 21-3 early in the second quarter Robinson employed a fake punt. Red Devil Kison Shepherd, standing 6-feet, 7 inches lofted a pass to DJ Allen to pick up the first down.
With a new life, Cordero Walker hit Tre-von McGory with a pass resulting with the ball resting near the goal line. Blake had the honors of rushing for his second TD to make the Germantown advantage 18 points.
“It’s November, and in November you’ve got to control the trenches,” Robinson said. “We felt good about our game plan coming and we were excited our guys executed and pulled it off.”
Bartlett (8-4) fought back throughout the third quarter starting with a Kam Alexander touchdown pass to Malachi Butler to make the score 21-10.
Germantown tried to seize total control of the game in the fourth quarter when Walker scored on a short TD run to make the score 28-10.
Panther’s Mr. Football Geron Johnson made the tally 28-16 when he crossed the goal line at the 7:56 mark of the fourth quarter.
Bartlett still had hopes of pulling off the win until Walker overcame a broken play for a long touchdown run. Moises Hernandez added the 35th point of the night for the Red Devils with the extra point.
Germantown is back in the Quarterfinals and the Red Devils will welcome familiar foe and neighbor the Houston Mustangs. Houston is rolling, winning nine games in a row after a 14-13 loss to Germantown on Sept. 1.
“Having it at home is huge because you get to have the whole Germantown community come out,” Robinson said. “You’re at home and you feel good about it. The whole student section is rowdy. We’re excited for the home field advantage deal and to host another one.
“Now just last year we were put out by this team,” he added. “We knew that and we knew how we played that game. We knew how we beat ourselves. So there was a focal level this week that you hadn’t seen in a while from our guys because we could not drop this.”
Houston is the team seeking revenge now, but Robinson said his team has a lot to play for as well.
“It’s a Region 8-6A battle,” he noted. “A lot of people have been saying it throughout the year, we have the toughest Region in the state. I truly believe that because we’ve got some truly talented teams.
“And Houston is a very talented team,” Robinson concluded. “We’ll have to prepare for them like that first game never happened. That doesn’t even matter now. We’re both 0-0 trying to get to one win this Friday.”