In a key game in one of the most competitive prep football districts in the state, the Germantown Red Devils scored a come-from-behind 14-13 win over the Whitehaven Tigers in the final minute.
While Whitehaven and Germantown high schools are separated by some 18 miles, the game played last Friday (Sept. 3) had an element of a neighborhood rivalry.
Gene Robinson, the former Fairley High School football coach, was hired to coach Germantown in 2020. The pandemic delayed his Germantown coaching debut until this season. Robinson was a former player at Whitehaven under head coach Rodney Saulsberry. And there are former coaches from Whitehaven on the new staff of the Red Devils.
The intensity from the close relationship of the coaches was evident by the play on the field of both teams.
“I am extremely proud of my kids,” Robinson said. “These two teams are built the same way and it is about will. All week long I have tried to keep my emotions out of it. Before the game I wanted to calm my team down and I had to calm myself down. …
“It is all love. Coach Saulsberry put me on the road. He would take me to schools to get me recruited to give me that confidence. I am trying to do the same thing for these kids out here that he did for me.”
From Saulsberry’s viewpoint, it was “a great game. That’s what games are about. I told the guys they did the things they needed to do, but we gave one away. Hats off to them for making great plays.”
All the scoring was done in the second half. Whitehaven’s Tigers got on the board first after forcing a sack fumble of the Red Devils’ quarterback. The Tigers went 60 yards on six plays, with quarterback William Carver rushing in from the one-yard line to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 5:09 left in the third quarter.
With 54 seconds left in the third, a high snap by the Whitehaven long snapper led to a shanked punt. The Red Devils’ Cameron Ledlow returned the errant punt 12 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
On the Tigers’ next offensive possession, they drove 80 yards in nine plays. JaQuez Bradley powered into the end zone with 6:64 left in the game. The extra point kick was missed, and the Tigers led13-7.
Germantown muscled up on its final drive. The Red Devils received the football on their 36-yard line with 6:46 left in the game. They kept it for six minutes and 10 seconds, scoring on a quarterback run of six yards by Malik Young.
The extra point was good, giving Germantown a 14-13 lead with 36 seconds left to play.
The game has implications for hosting games deep into the playoffs. Both teams have won state football championships. Each team is looking for a return to the state championship game.
During the opening coin toss, the Tigers’ players carried the jersey number 99. That was the number of Demetrius Robinson, a player who was fatally shot last season.
“These young men are using these games as fuel to get our lives and situations better. We are holding him up and sending prayers up to him,” Saulsberry said.
Germantown (2-1,1-0 District) will host Hillcrest (0-3) next week. Whitehaven (2-1,0-1 District) will look to get back on the winning track when they travel to Nashville to face powerful Brentwood Academy.