Germantown’s Red Devils and Whitehaven’s Tigers – “two good teams coming with hard knocks football” – have set an early-season standard for crowd-pleasing, down-to-the-wire competition.
In an instant classic, Germantown (3-0, 1-0 16AAA) snatched victory from the Tigers (2-1, 0-1 16AAA) with a 24-21 comeback in the final seconds at Whitehaven Stadium last Friday night.
A standing-room-only crowd, one of the largest in the stadium’s history, watched as the Tigers – down 17-14 with 1:50 left in the game – mounted an 85-yard touchdown drive and grabbed a 21-17 lead that put victory just 37 seconds away.
After a squib kick by the Tigers, the Red Devils took possession on their own 49-yard line. Three plays later and with Germantown on the 14-yard line, senior quarterback Isaiah Tate completed a pass to his twin brother, Israel Tate, who tossed the football to running back B.J. Blake, who rocketed himself over the pylon for the winning touchdown.
Known throughout football history as the hook and ladder, the play was installed in the Red Devils’ offense this past April by head coach Gene Robinson, who once starred at Whitehaven before playing at North Carolina.
“It was not a fluke. I am excited,” said Robinson. “It is two good teams coming with hard knocks football. For us to come in and face the adversity says a lot. It is playoff football right now, back-to-back-to-back. Last year when we came out this gully, we did not get any better. We have to put that foot on the gas and get better. I love the effort and the energy.”
Germantown will host Hillcrest on Friday at 7 p.m. Also on Friday, the Tigers will host Nashville’s Brentwood Academy, a perennial contender for the state title.
“I told the team, ‘you never lose, you learn,’” said Whitehaven head coach Rodney Saulsberry. “You can’t get too high, or you can’t get too low. You get up and make a great play; you have to stay level. You have to play until the time goes out. You have to finish the game. That is the lesson you learn.
“We didn’t do that. We have to learn from that.”
The Red Devils’ Robinson is in his third season at Germantown. The first year was lost to COVID-19. Last season, Germantown also beat Whitehaven. During the pregame introduction, the Red Devils’ players broke through a sign that read, “Last year was not a mistake. We are here to keep the record straight.”
The game was a well-balanced affair. Whitehaven had 342 total yards; Germantown had 344.
Germantown’s Isaiah Tate finished with 210 passing yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 54 yards. Blake finished with two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving. Junior running back Malik Mason also had a rushing touchdown.
Whitehaven quarterback Jase Edward finished with 151 passing yards and two touchdowns, connecting with Tyshawn Tate and Kendarius Jones. William Carver, who came in to play quarterback, threw a touchdown to Marion Bernard. Ahmad Miller was the workhorse on the ground, finishing with 117 yards.
The rivalry was palpable.
“This rivalry has been going on for a long time,” said Robinson. “I have been on the other side of this rivalry. I lost a playoff game to Germantown. We were the number one team in the state and got upset.
“When Germantown and Whitehaven go at, it you feel it on Monday (afterward). We walked down Whitehaven Lane to come here. They (Whitehaven fans) were out on the porch talking bad to us. That just gets you fired up. They (Whitehaven) blacked it out and we redded it out. I love it.”
As for the rivalry, Saulsberry said, “It is us against everybody. Everyone wants to knock us off. We take that personally. We are everyone’s rivalry. I look forward to tough games. We don’t shy away from it. There is some history with Germantown and Whitehaven and the communities. It is a tough loss for all of those factors.”
Asked what he would tell his team about what went wrong, Saulsberry said, “It is the little plays. Effort is the most important thing. Never quit on a play. It is a mindset.
“We are trying to teach the game of life. When you are a man and get a job and you have a family to feed, there is no quitting. I may feel bad, but I still have to get up and go to work. We are trying to teach man skills. Our young royals and kings have to understand (that they) have to step up at all times and never quit. I am proud of how they fought. …
“We look forward to seeing them later on.”