Devils fall to Spartans, prepare for playoffs

Photo by Martin Jones

By Bill Sorrell

Max Reid held a black belt with silver studs after holding the game in his toe.

Reid, a White Station senior, kicked a 20-yard field goal with 7 seconds left to lift the Spartans to a 20-18 victory over Germantown and into second place in Region 8-6A.

Trailing 18-17 midway through the fourth quarter, the Spartans went on an 86-yard scoring drive propelled by quarterback Dwight Holmes’ first down- passes to Shamari Covington, Titus Goldson and Brandon Harris to reach the Red Devils 39-yard line with 2:15 left.

Facing 4th and 2, Holmes ran nine yards to the 30 and then six yards to the 24. Jaylen Caver, who would get a team-high 62 rushing yards, ran to the 9 then the 4 to set up Reid’s second field goal attempt of the game.

Lining up, prayers went went up from both sidelines.

“I was just praying that we were going to be able to block it or that he would miss it. I wanted us to win,” said Germantown quarterback T.J. Tate.

Germantown tight end John Paul Penn said, “I was hoping and praying, anything could happen.”

Izzy Cobos, Germantown’s placekicker, was praying for a block.

It didn’t happen.

After the snap from Scott Welborn, Reid put his head down, locked out and did the same swing that he does every time and the Spartans improved their record to 6-4, 2-1 in the region.

“I knew it was good before I snapped the ball,” said Welborn. “We have the best kicker in the country.”

His first game winner of the season, Reid said, “After I hit it I had a whole bunch of joy. It was very clutch. I live for those moments. I practice those. We focus in practice on clutch conversions like that. My teammates believed in me. That is all I need for my teammates to believe.”

A senior, Welborn said, “I am so happy right now. It showed a lot about our team winning in the last couple of seconds. It was a huge game. It’s a rivalry. It’s neck and neck every year. I am proud of everybody from offense, defense, special teams and coaches. We were able to convert a couple of fourth downs and kept us moving down field and giving our offense confidence. It determined who we are playing our senior season in the playoffs.”

The Spartans host Bartlett (6-4) at 7 p.m. this Friday.

“I was thinking he was going to make it because I have faith in him,” said Holmes. “When he made it I was excited because all his hard work showed off and won us the game.”

Having an 11-10 lead at halftime, then falling behind, then taking the lead 18-17 when Marrieon Claybrooks ran 25 yards for a touchdown and Cobos kicked the PAT with 10:39 left in the fourth, the Red Devils lost their chance for their first region win.

“I felt just destroyed and knew that we were so close and it seemed like almost everything came together and then fell apart at the end,” said James Cochran, a backup punter and senior playing his first season of football. He is the starting goalie on the soccer team.

Among the seniors being recognized on Senior Night, Cobos said, “I was devastated.”

Said Tate, “My heart just dropped.”

Ironically on the same Germantown field Reid kicked his first field goal, a game winner in middle school that put his team in a championship game.

After Friday’s game, Reid was handed the Spartans’ champion belt given to the playmaker of the game. “It means a lot to me,” he said.

What meant a lot to Germantown head coach Tommy Ferrill was his team’s resiliency.

“We’ve got great kids and we are going to fight to the end. We ran power. We were winning at the point of attack. They played their butts off and have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Germantown’s second-round playoff game two years ago against White Station had a similar ending when the Spartans won in the final minutes 17-14 in Germantown.

Penn said the Red Devils wanted revenge on their field. “We have some big history with them the last two years.”

During undefeated regular seasons in 2017 and 2018, the Red Devils knocked off White Station 45-35 in 2017 and 31-0 in 2018.

The fourth straight loss left the Red Devils 2-8, 0-3 in region. They will play at city rival Houston at 7 p.m. this Friday in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs. The Mustangs, Region 7-6A champions, finished with their first-ever undefeated season, 10-0.

They have been sparked this year by running back Lincoln Pare, who rushed for 272 yards and three touchdowns in a 50-45 win over Southwind on Friday.

“I expect Lincoln to run a lot,” said Cobos.

Penn said, “Houston and Germantown are big rivals. We thought we wouldn’t be playing this year because they weren’t on our schedule. This is a big game.”

A day after Halloween, the Red Devils had surprises for the Spartans.

After Tate ran 3 yards for a touchdown with 8:31 left in the second quarter, Penn scored a 2-point conversion for an 8-7 lead.

Cobos then kicked an onside kick which senior defensive lineman Kavious Webber recovered at the White Station 48. That would start a scoring drive that ended with Cobos’ 25-yard field goal for an 11-7 lead with 5:31 left.

“We knew they were going to throw everything at us they could,” said White Station head coach Reid Yarbrough. “They are a well-coached team. Coach Ferrill does a good job. They made a couple of plays that gave momentum in the first half. After their touchdown they made the 2-point conversion that we weren’t ready for. Then the onside kick. Obviously they had prepared for those moments and we weren’t as ready as we needed to be.”

Cobos said, “We were watching film and we saw how the guy always dropped back. We were about to kick off so Coach told me we are going to do a little surprise bunt so I started working on it. He told me to do it the first kickoff.”

Ferrill said, “It comes down to numbers and basic arithmetic. We had the numbers, we spread the field and we went with it.”

Tate said, “That was a great call and it was great execution by our special teams.”

Said Holmes, “They came out swinging and caught us off-guard with the 2-point conversion then with the onside kick.”

The Red Devils rebounded from a shutout loss to Whitehaven a week earlier.

“Our goal this week was to be 1-0. Last week had nothing to do with this week. This is a whole new entity,” said Ferrill.

In his first season as starting quarterback, Holmes passed for 216 yards and among the most crucial was the last drive.

“I said to myself and my team let’s show the world why they shouldn’t count us out,” said Holmes, a junior. “I was thinking we need to play how we have been playing throughout the season.”

Yarbrough said Holmes showed poise on the fourth down conversion that set up the winning score.

“We went to our heavy package and he was running a roll out pass. He saw the green grass and ran. I was proud of that decision. He extended the drive on a couple of third downs and fourth downs. He showed composure in that he did what we needed to do to get down to the spot where we could kick the field goal. I am proud of the ways the guys executed at certain times and showed composure that we didn’t show a lot the week before against MUS (a 21-13 loss).

“I learned that I can trust them at the end of the game to close it out. It’s fun to see how they respond in critical situations like that.

“We knew it was going to be a tough task. You can’t underestimate anybody in our league. They (Red Devils) have a lot of talent. I am proud of the way we finished.”

Holmes has progressed this season.

“He was making good reads and hitting his spots late. He had two good drives in the second half that got points. All season long he has done a good job of bringing us down the field.”

Holmes threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Covington with 53 seconds left in the third quarter, capping an 84-yard drive. That put the Spartans ahead 16-11 before Reid’s extra point. Covington would finish as the Spartans’ second leading receiver with 64 yards. Goldson led with 95 yards, Harris had 37, James Baker 20.

“We put together a perfect drive,” said Holmes.

A crucial stat was third down efficiency. White Station converted 7 of 13 third downs (54 percent), Germantown 2 of 9 (22 percent).

“Third downs are very big parts of the game. For us not to come up on those because of missed assignments, if we had those, I feel like we could have had a better game,” said Tate.

Ferrill said, “They are solid at situational football. They converted quite a few third downs on us and they were able to get some stops on third down where I thought we had a chance.”

In total offense, White Station had 321 yards (216 passing, 105 rushing), Germantown 289 (108 passing, 181 rushing). Both teams had 12 first downs.

Tate passed for 74 yards and rushed for 25 while another Germantown quarterback Will Fisher passed for 34. T.J Dorsey rushed for 17 yards, Penn 13.

Fisher helped lead the Red Devils scoring drive that put them ahead 18-17 in the fourth.

After a 17-yard kickoff return by Penn to the 50, a personal foul was called on the Red Devils. Claybrooks then ran to his 34 and Reginald Garrison, Jr., to the 40.

A 35-yard yard pass from Fisher to Cole Cocroft went from the 40 to the White Station 25. From there Claybrooks scored the touchdown for the lead.

“Cole Cocroft was one of the reasons we scored to give us the lead,” said Tate. “It was a busted play at the beginning and he (Claybrooks) adjusted the defense at the last minute and Will made a great play. That was a big drive for us. That was a big momentum shift. I felt like that was what we needed at the time to get us back going.”

Ferrill said that Cocroft played well at defensive end and tight end and Claybrooks, a sophomore who had a game-high 112 yards rushing. He said Tate and Fisher played well.

“Marrieon Claybrooks had a good night. He came up big. We had a bunch of driving plays,” said Penn, who led Germantown receivers with 51 yards.

“I love when they pass the ball to J.P. (Penn). He is so versatile. He can run, he can catch. He can do a whole bunch of things. It’s all respect for J.P. too,” said Cobos.

Ferrill said they were trying to move Penn around to use him “to take advantage of his strengths. He is a good football player and he’s able to do a lot of things that we ask him to do.”

Tate said, “He came up on a lot of big plays, breaking tackles, catching balls. He came through big on offense.”

Calling Senior Night “a big deal” for him and other seniors, Penn wanted to play his last home game as hard as he could.

“I think I did pretty much all I could. At the beginning I came up big. We had some passing plays,” he said.

In the first quarter, Penn caught a first down pass at the White Station 47. Facing 4th and 1 at the Germantown 31 with 8:41 left in the third quarter, Penn ran 12 yards for a clutch first down.

“They put me in at running back. We have been working on it the past couple of weeks. I credit the linemen. They did very well this game. I think it was one of their best games if not their best. We did almost all we could,” said Penn.

However, after runs by Tate, Claybrooks and Dorsey got the Red Devils to the White Station 32, they had half of their 40 yards in penalties.

A personal foul penalty of 15 yards preceded a 5-yard penalty and instead of 3rd and 4 it went to 3rd and 24 and Penn had to punt.

“That ended that scoring drive,” said Penn, who averaged 38 yards on two punts with his longest a 41-yarder in the fourth quarter. He called it a turning point.

Yarbrough was impressed with Germantown.

Penn “snuck us out of the backfield some and made plays,” said Yarbrough. “Their tight end (Cocroft) was making a lot of plays. They had some passes over the middle of the field. We have got to clean that up. I was impressed their offensive line blocked well. They had a lot of guys active. Their quarterback (Tate) and No. 8 (Claybrooks) had really big plays.”

Claybrooks had a 40-yard run on the last play of the first quarter that set up the Red Devils’ first touchdown.

He ran to the Spartans 30. Mike King gained 6 to the 24, Tate then ran 18 yards to the 6 yard line. Penn was the lead blocker on Tate’s run. Tate scored from the 3 and Penn converted for the two points.

One of the biggest plays the Red Devils had was when senior defensive back Chris Williams chased down Goldson at the Germantown 1 in the second quarter with 4:30 left.

Holmes, who completed 12 of 22 passes, had thrown a 78-yard pass to Goldson.

“We get a bomb and our receiver gets caught at the 1 because he starts to jog,” said Yarbrough. “We don’t have the right personnel out there, then we get a false start penalty so instead of a touchdown we go from first and goal at the 1 to first and goal at the 6 and first and goal at the 11. We need to learn from that. We get a field goal. We needed a touchdown.

“There were too many mistakes in the first half for me to think this is a complete game and not good enough execution in the second half. Our offense had a couple of three and outs. We weren’t on the field enough so our defense was on the field a lot. There are so many things I am seeing that as a first-year coach. We preach all the time about staying focused.”

Tate said, “Chris Williams saved a touchdown. I thought it was a score. I give props to him.”

Yarbrough, who played at White Station, took the reigns when former coach Joe Rocconi became head coach at Collierville this year.

Germantown pass breakups by Wyuna Wright and Cocroft also led to the Spartans’ field goal, a 26-yarder by Reid. It was 11-10 prompting a referee to say, “You don’t see that score very often.”

Brandon Partee, a Germantown junior defensive back, broke up a Holmes pass in the third quarter forcing 4th and 7 and forced Reid to punt. He averaged 37 yards on 2 punts with 40 yards his longest.

The Spartans scored the first touchdown of the game when Jaylen Caver ran 4 yards with 5:35 left in the first quarter. Reid kicked the PAT.

Covington had intercepted Tate at the Germantown 44. Caver got a first down at the 15. On 4th and 2 from the 6, Caver ran to the 4 and then the touchdown.

“Jaylen Caver is as tough as they come. His yards are hard to come by right now,” said Yarbrough. “It’s not for lack of him giving everything he’s got. I love the way he goes about his business and every play he is going to give 100 percent.

“Brandon Harris (defensive back, wide receiver) extended some plays. He played gutsy tonight. He is a savvy player. He is smart and talented. I like the way guys played on our offensive line. They were playing hard.

“Defensively, as a unit they play together. Scott Welborn played hard in the linebacker spot. He came off a little injury. We were fortunate that he was here. He got knocked out of the game last week with a little concussion, He was cleared early so he came back.”

The defense played their assignments better in the second half said Yarbrough.

“We settled down and started getting after the quarterback a little more and making tackles when we needed to. Their running backs were playing well and the line was opening up holes for them. We have been very good against the run this year. When they were hitting long runs it surprised us. We settled down. “

Tate praised the play of defensive lineman Gerald Salter, offensive lineman Tamekkio Cobb, linebacker Marcus Askew.

Pass breakups were “big for us because there were a lot on third down and got us the ball back,” said Tate. “Our running game was real big tonight.”

Cochran said faces were confused when he, a starting soccer player, entered the locker room for the first day of practice. Football has helped him get stronger and tougher for soccer as well as providing brotherhood.

“It’s been really fun and unique to know you are a cog in a large machine,” said Cochran, who relies on faith in both sports.

“My faith helps me every step of the way, knowing that God is out there while I’m playing and giving me strength,” he said.

Cochran praised Cobos for his “great” onside kick. Ferrill praised his “outstanding” defensive line.

Defensively for White Station, linebacker Danny Gwin had 10 tackles (7 solos), Welborn 6 (4 solos), linebacker Gabe Amerson 5, defensive back Cejai Parson 4. Jeremy Boyland, a defensive lineman, had 4 tackles with 2 solos and a sack.

Ferrill said the Red Devils have work to do.

“We have to play better, clean it up and make plays when we have the opportunity against Houston. I learn something every day. I try to be the best version of me. I hope our kids are trying to be the best version of themselves,” he said.

Tate was in it to win it for the seniors.

“I wanted to give it my all for them. Everyone gave 110 percent tonight. As a team we have a lot of potential. I’m 110 percent ready for Houston. I’m going to give my all once again for my team. Knowing that I have another year I still want to deliver for my boys because I know a lot of them might not ever play football again.

“I’m trying to show everybody who doubted me at the beginning of the season and doubted us throughout the season who we are, Germantown. We will always be who we are. As long as I come out here and play for them as me being a leader, a quarterback, they will follow right behind me.”

Following behind Marshall Ware, now a freshman place kicker at Tennessee, Cobos said, “I was in some big shoes to fill. I am not going to lie, Marshall is one of my role models. He has my respect. This year when I had to step into his shoes it was surreal. Things didn’t go that well for us. We still had a good season. We had a lot of fun. We connected. We became one as a team instead of individuals. We were playing for each other, not just ourselves.”

Wearing camouflage pants, a tradition seniors have on Fridays along with wearing game jerseys which his brother Jacob Cecil did when he played at Germantown 10 years ago, Penn said “We haven’t had a lot of wins this year but we knew what we had to get it done. We came up short. We seniors wanted to give a good last game at Ken Netherland Stadium for our parents, fans and students. We wanted to make it a night to remember.”

Reid won’t forget his game winner nor will Yarbrough.

“The spot where we got to on the field was perfect for him to kick. He hit two in a driving rainstorm (against MUS),” said Yarbrough. “I had confidence he would strike true.”