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Imhotep Charter is heading back to the Class 5A championship after beating Upper Dublin, 21-14

Written by: on Saturday, December 3rd, 2022. Follow Joseph Santoliquito on Twitter.


AMBLER — The mission was to get back. That’s the edict Imhotep Charter coach Devon Johnson put to his team back in August. That’s the promise the Panthers made to themselves.

Imhotep accomplished its mission on Friday night over District 1 champion Upper Dublin, 21-14, at Wissahickon High School surviving some tense late moments to reach the PIAA Class 5A state title game, where the Panthers will meet Pine Richland next Friday night.

There is some unfinished business this Imhotep team has been lugging since its 17-14 overtime loss to Penn-Trafford in last year’s 5A state title.

“It is gratifying to get back, but we have to win it,” Johnson said. “That’s been the whole thing this year. We want to win the state title, and we want to finish the job this time. That’s been our focus. This program has reached the state finals seven times—and won once and lost six. We have to get over that hump if we want to be taken seriously as a program.”

Again, it was Mikal Davis as the Panthers’ driving force. The 6-foot, 200-pound junior lefty quarterback scored two touchdowns and threw for another in helping Imhotep bolt out to a 21-0 lead.

He finished rushing with 70 yards on eight carries and passed for 154 yards. His dual-threat ability makes him a matchup nightmare for any defense.

“(Upper Dublin) left the middle of the field wide open,” Davis said. “They were showing a lot of blitzes, sending seven, but they were going man with their safeties in the corners and they were giving us the middle of the field. It’s why I completed so many dig routes.

“In the beginning of the season, nobody thought we would get back to the state championship. It’s why we have the attitude, ‘Tep versus everybody.’ But it was a great mission. We want to be known as one of the best teams to ever come out of Imhotep and my feet feel really good.”

Davis’ 1-yard TD with 8:40 left in the third quarter gave the Panthers a commanding 21-0 lead.

And just when it looked like Imhotep (10-2) was going to run away and roll over the Cardinals, Upper Dublin (14-1) struck back.

The Cardinals had been moving the ball well against the vaunted Imhotep defense but had not finished.

Feeling their season slipping, Upper Dublin found another gear. Senior quarterback Colin O’Sullivan hit Starling Reaves with a 34-yard pass late in the third quarter, and O’Sullivan rifled a short, four-yard touchdown pass to Griffin Pensabene with 3:02 left in the quarter, pulling the Cardinals to within 21-7.

After an Upper Dublin stop midway into the fourth quarter, the Cardinals were on the move again. O’Sullivan kept taking advantage of the little sideline outs Imhotep was giving him, constantly hitting Djevanni Cerisier with small gains, and when it seemed the Cardinals’ drive would stall at the Imhotep 28 on a fourth-and-five, the Panthers were flagged with a pass interference call, pushing the ball to the 13.

On the next play, O’Sullivan hit Cerisier by the pylon for a 13-yard TD with 4:59 to play.

Suddenly, it was a game again.

It was a game that became that much more intriguing game when Chris Kohlbrenner broke about four tackles after taking a short pass 34 yards to the Panthers’ 25 with less than two minutes to play. A holding call killed some of the Cardinals’ momentum, which O’Sullivan answered with an 11-yard completion to Reaves.

That’s where it ended.

On fourth-and-13 at the Imhotep 28, O’Sullivan bobbled the snap out of the shotgun, and when he tried to pick up the loose ball, the Panthers’ defense had smothered him back at the 37, ending the Cardinals’ hopes of a comeback.

The Panthers killed the clock from there.

Imhotep took a 14-0 lead into halftime on Davis’ 61-yard run on the second play of the game, and Davis’ 37-yard touchdown pass to Corey Wright-Downing, on a second-and-26 play.

Upper Dublin had its chances early on. The Cardinals turned the ball over twice in the first half on interceptions by Rahmir Stewart and Raheem Reid. But after a slow start in which they gained zero yards on their first two drives, the Upper Dublin offense began to roll. The Cardinals took their third possession 89 yards on 17 plays, chewing up 6 minutes, 14 seconds of the clock.

The Cardinals converted six first downs on the drive, which resulted in Yahsir Satterfield tipping O’Sullivan’s pass and Reid making a diving interception at the Imhotep 7.

The Upper Dublin defense bottled up the Panthers from there, getting in the red zone, this time at the Panthers’ 20. The Cardinals were stymied again under Imhotep pressure, getting the ball back on downs.

“We didn’t capitalize when we had our chances, which we did all year,” said Upper Dublin coach Bret Stover, who did an amazing job getting the Cardinals to the state semifinals. “They’re a good football team, obviously a real good football team. I think we gave them all they wanted.

“I won’t forget how we battled all year. We were down 21-0 and we fought to the end. We left some points on the field in the first half. Our defense played awesome. This was a phenomenal group, one of those groups that you remember.”

Imhotep moves on and gets to rectify what happened last year.

“We’re a new team, a young team that wanted to make it all the way back. We answered a lot of the haters and doubters who didn’t think we would get back,” said Panthers’ 6-6, 230-pound sophomore defensive end Zahir Mathis, who had one sack and batted down two passes against Upper Dublin. “We had a great team last year, filled with great players, but we’re back and we’re more athletic. We’re ready to do this.”

And heal an overtime scar.

Scoring Summary

Imhotep Charter (10-2) 7 7 7 0-21

Upper Dublin (14-1) 0 0 7 7-14

1st Quarter

IC – Mikal Davis 61 run (Kenneth Wosesley kick), 10:52

2nd Quarter

IC – Corey Wright-Downing 37 pass from Davis 1 run (Wosesley kick), 1:17

2nd Quarter

IC – Davis 1 run (Wosesley kick), 8:40

UD – Griffin Pensabene 4 pass from Colin O’Sullivan (Austin Pendleton kick), 3:02

4th Quarter

UD – Djevanni Cerisier 13 pass from O’Sullivan (Pendleton kick), 4:59

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been covering high school football since 1992 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter @JSantoliquito. Follow on Twitter @EPAFootball.

Follow on Twitter @EPAFootball

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