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Red Devils stunned late in playoff game

Red Devils stunned in last minute

BY BILL SORRELL

Facing fourth down and Cookeville, White Station quarterback Drew Lyons stood at Germantown’s 36-yard line with 1:01 left in the game looking for the king of wheel routes, Greg Williams.

Williams, just named first-team Region 8-6A running back, sprinted from his backfield down the left sideline and caught a 35-yard perfect pass from Lyons at the 1-yard line with 53 seconds left. Williams only needed 10 for a first down.

On the next play, Williams knifed through the Red Devil defense scoring a touchdown with 24 seconds to play and the cardiac-enticing Spartans continued an improbable run in the TSSAA state playoffs with a green, white and gray flag-waving 17-14 victory at Germantown on Friday.

Entering the game with an 11-0 record and the region championship, the Red Devils’ “return-to-tradition,” uncommon season was over.

White Station, which entered the playoffs with a 3-7 record, now have two last-second victories. The Spartans scored as time expired against Arlington in the first round when tight end Garrett Sapp caught a 20-yard pass from Lyons in the end zone.

Williams then ran the two-point conversion for a 29-28 victory over the Tigers, which finished second in Region 7-6A.

This Friday, the Spartans (5-7) will play Whitehaven (10-2) in the quarterfinals in another rematch of Region 8 teams. The winner heads to the state semifinals. The state championship game will be played in Cookeville on Dec. 2.

“My heart dropped straight to my toes,” said Germantown quarterback Ethan Payne as he watched the play that set up the end to his junior season. “It was a perfect pass. They had to have a perfect play in order to beat us. To lose to them in a game that close in the last minute is heartbreaking.”

Named Region 8-6A Coach of the Year, Germantown Head Coach Chris Smith called the winning play “astounding.”

“We have been stopping them and stopping them. For a guy that is a first-team all-region running back who weighs 215 pounds to be able to run out of the backfield to catch a wheel route man-to-man down there in the corner on one of our best corners is astounding,” said Smith.

No problem for Williams.

“I said, ‘Coach I got you.’ He gave it to me and I did what I had to do,” said Williams. “We never give up.”

White Station Head Coach Joe Rocconi said there was no discussion.

Rezimond Robinson scores Hallelujah touchdown to give the Red Devils the lead

Rezimond Robinson scores a late touchdown to give the Red Devils a 14-10 lead with five minutes left in the game. bigKphotos.com

“He had one-on-one matchup and I would put Greg Williams one-on-one with anybody,” he noted.

The Spartans had used the alignment in the first quarter throwing a slant to another player and did not go back to it until the final seconds.

“We felt like it was a great match-up. They put one-on-one on him and, just like last week, I am going to put the ball in his hands,” said Rocconi.

Williams, whose nickname is “Butta,” scored the winning touchdown from the Wildcat formation.

“As long as we don’t fumble, I think we can get a yard any time,” said Rocconi. “I can’t describe how I feel. I am just very proud of our players and our coaches.

“We just keep building,” he added. “We are very happy to get this win against a phenomenal team who was undefeated all season and we are going to the third round. It (mindset) is very similar to last week. You don’t get second chances hardly ever in football and we got one last week.

“We were blessed to have another one tonight and that is what we talked about all week,” he continued. “It wasn’t moving on. It wasn’t third round. It wasn’t state. It was getting redemption against Germantown.”

In a rematch of an Oct. 6 game when Germantown defeated White Station 45-35, most offensive fireworks on Friday were saved for the fourth quarter.

Williams’ 4-yard touchdown run with 8:35 left gave the Spartans a 9-3 lead. Kicker Micah Breckenridge, who has committed to the University of Richmond, kicked the PAT.

Of the 16 plays in the 74-yard drive, Williams ran 15 of them.

Germantown countered with a 10-play, 65-yard drive that gave the Red Devils the lead.

Reginald Sanders returned the kickoff to the Germantown 35. Runs by Jaylen Givens and Kayson Joe got four yards. On fourth and one, Joe ran for a first down at the Spartan 44.

Rezimond Robinson and Joe alternated more rushes that got the Red Devils 38 yards. From the 6-yard line Robinson scored with 5:05 left for a 13-10 lead. Marshall Ware kicked the PAT.

The Spartans then began their game-winner. It would go 80 yards and take 12 plays. A first-down pass from Lyons to Sapp got them to their 34. Williams then had five runs to the Red Devils’ 36-yard line. After Williams scored, Breckenridge, first-team all-region kicker, made it a three-point game, 17-14.

“We were able to come back from the schedule we played before,” said Breckenridge. “We have been through adversity and we have handled it before and I had no doubt in my team that we were going to pull it out.”

The Red Devils had the ball at their 24-yard line with 24 seconds left.

“I knew that if they scored right then it was going to be extremely difficult to score again for us due to the time,” said Payne, All-Region 8-6A first team quarterback. “We have been through adversity and we have handled it. We had been there before and we don’t panic.”

Smith did not panic.

“I still felt confident we were going to get them. The thought never crossed my mind, ‘Hey we are in trouble,’” said Smith.

Germantown’s Jaylin Williams, named Region 8-6A Offensive Player of the Year along with first team all-region wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner and one of three semifinalist for Mr. Football, was trying to get in the end zone when he got the ball at the game’s end.

“They had great pursuit and I couldn’t get there. It’s really tough to beat a team twice and that was proven tonight,” said Williams, wearing his red IU hoodie. He will play football at Indiana next year. “I will go to Indiana and do big things.”

Before then he will finish his high school career running track.

Said Payne, “It’s just hard knowing you should win that game. When we beat them in the regular season we didn’t play that good then.”

Williams had a season-high night against the Red Devils in the rematch. He had 43 carries. He got 165 of White Station’s 171 rushing yards.

Roshan Williams and Lyons each rushed for three yards.

Germantown rushed for 220 yards, with Joe gaining 104 yards on 15 carries, Robinson 99 yards on 16 carries.

“We ran the ball and we ran it and we ran it and we ran it,” said Payne. “Our O-line has proven over and over again they are the best, I believe, in this side of Tennessee or maybe in the state of Tennessee.”

Payne called Greg Williams “the best running back in Memphis.”

“He is the best in our league,” he added. “He is shiftier, faster, stronger than any running back we have faced. He carried the team on his back tonight. We couldn’t stop him.”

Smith said, “We knew he was good. We knew he would fight hard. We had certain checks in and we got them in. I think the defense did well. He is going to be good next week too.”

Payne said, “I am extremely disappointed for all these seniors. They wanted it so bad. They felt like we were the best team in the state and I still think we are.

“I love every single one of them (seniors),” he added. “They took me in as a sophomore. They have helped me develop into the quarterback I am right now.”

Personal goals were accomplished said Payne, including the quarterback honor.

“I am very grateful for everything I have been given here. I have to say thank you to my teammates, all the fans, to everybody. We have proven that we are going to go down as one of the greatest Germantown teams in history. We went 10-0 regular season, beat the defending state champions (Whitehaven) and were No. 1 in the region.”

Payne passed for more than 1,000 yards this season.

“I accomplished that. I didn’t want to have more than five interceptions. I didn’t accomplish that, unfortunately,” he said.

Payne completed 6 of 16 passes for 59 yards with an interception Friday night. Lyons completed 5 of 11 passes for 39 yards with an interception.

The Spartans got their first score on a drive set up by an interception. Linebacker Eli Neal picked off Payne in the first quarter returning it 19 yards.

An 11-yard sack by the Red Devils’ Tyrec Collins on Williams forced White Station to attempt a field goal and Breckenridge kicked a 29-yarder giving the Spartans a 3-0 lead with 5:13 left.

The Red Devils answered with a nine-play 79 yard drive. Joe ran 3 yards for a touchdown with 2:10 left in the first. Ware, who first team all region punter and second team all region placekicker, made it 7-3, the halftime score.

Robinson had a 13-yard run during the drive, Payne threw a 14-yard first down pass to Ted Lyons and Joe had a 15-yard run to get the Red Devils to the Spartan 17.

Germantown was saddled with 16 penalties for 93 yards while White Station had five for 57 yards.

The penalties stifled momentum said Smith. One penalty came after a remarkable run by Ware.

With Germantown on their 22-yard line, Ware was about to punt when he had to handle a bad snap. He ran 30 yards to the White Station 35-yard line and in the process bulldozing a defender.

“That was a momentum swinger,” said Smith.

There was 10:54 left. White Station got to the Red Devil 18-yard line before Roshan Williams was stopped by Collins and Duke Hill. What was going to be a field goal attempt became a punt. The Red Devils drove to the Spartan 13-yard line but a holding penalty forced them to the 21. Ware then missed a 38-yard field goal with 3:39 left in the third quarter. Germantown led 7-3 at the end of three quarters.

Praising his defense, Rocconi said they “stepped up tonight.”

“They have been playing so much in the last month,” he said. “To hold Germantown to 14 points is a heck of an accomplishment.”

Neal, Cincir Evans had 9 tackles, Jim Baker 7, and Jaylin Rainey 6 to lead the Spartans.

For Germantown, Devin Wright had 7 tackles and a sack for three yards, Hill 7 tackles and a sack of three yards, Trey Boyd tackles 6, Micah Mack 4, Lyons 8, Demarcus Williams 8, Jalon Greer 4, Jaylin Williams 6, Shomar Michael 4 tackles and a sack for five yards, Collins 5 tackles and two sacks of 13 yards.

Smith said that Joe, Lyons “played really well.”

“Micah Mack and Jaylin Williams played really well defending,” he noted. “Our defense did really good tonight.”

Germantown players also making first team all-region were Max Martini and Isaiah Hayden offensive line. Boyd defensive tackle, Lyons linebacker.

White Station had other first team all region winners on the field: Rainey offensive line, Neal, linebacker, Evans defensive back, Roshan Williams defensive back, Greg Williams punt returner.

Greg Williams had a game-high 35 yards receiving, all from that one last-gap play. Sapp had one catch for 11 yards. Jaylin Williams had two catches for 24 yards, Lyons one catch for 16 yards, Deray Lawrence one reception for 13 yards, Cameron Baker one for six yards.

Smith said that teams have been bracketing receivers.

“Teams started playing a certain way toward the end of the year,” he said. “We tried to shift them, move them down the line of scrimmage or move them to the slot.

“They came in fired up,” he continued. “Their previous record means nothing. It is not easy to beat a good team multiple times in a season. We were fighting hard the whole game. Some bounces did not go our way. That is what makes high school football exciting and fun. I don’t know if anybody could have said or suspected that they were going to go 11-1. The guys worked really hard. It was hard to let it go at the end.”

Smith said that this season elevated the program and united the community.

“We are still behind those guys. We are going to be with them and move forward and get these guys scholarships and focus on life after football,” he said. “Our first priority is to take care of these seniors and get them to the next level.

“We want to thank everybody in the program,” he concluded. “I think it was a year the program broke through. It was not very popular but we made this thing something they wanted to be apart of again and the town rallied behind us. We will try to keep building on the tradition. We feel like Germantown football is back. We want to elevate it again next year.”