At this time of year, when a high school football team gets to practice on Thanksgiving it’s a signal that something has gone very right.
Bartlett High School’s Panthers can attest to that truth.
“I’m happy we get to practice on Thanksgiving this year,” said Bartlett star quarterback Braylen Ragland, who threw a late, first-down-securing pass that helped extend the Panthers’ season on Friday night and thrust them into the Region 6A semifinals against Hendersonville’s Beech High School.
“That’s what we worked hard to get this entire season, and here we are.”
With Bartlett (11-2) needing a first down to cement a victory against Germantown High School (11-3) in the 3rd round of the playoffs, Ragland, a Georgia State commit, connected with Deshaun Catron for the first down with just under 2 minutes left to play.
The 16-14 win on their home field was a measure of revenge for the Panthers, who fell 17-16 to the Red Devils during the regular season.
“Our only loss here in the city was to them,” said Ragland, “and to get that back during this time of the year felt really good.”
Bartlett head coach Lance Tucker had positioned his team to view the loss to Germantown as a motivator to improve their performance should they encounter the Red Devils again.
“I told the coaches I didn’t like that number 16 on the board,” said Tucker referring to Bartlett’s point total in the in-season loss to Germantown. “I honestly don’t know how we won the game (Friday night), but I’m more than happy that we did.
Both squads were clicking offensively in the first quarter, as Bartlett running back Geron Johnson and Germantown running back Malik Mason each found the end zone. Bartlett broke a 7-7 tie in the middle of the second quarter when Ragland connected with Catron as the Panthers forged ahead 13-7.
The Panthers followed that touchdown with an onside kick, which they recovered and turned into a field goal that pushed their lead to 16-7 at halftime.
As Bartlett’s offense sputtered through the third quarter and into the 4th, Germantown rode the momentum into a touchdown drive. Quarterback Isaiah Tate hit wide receiver Quinton Brooks with a touchdown pass that trimmed Bartlett’s lead to 16-14.
However, the Red Devils could get no closer.
And now Bartlett is on the doorstep of a state title game berth.