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Mikal Davis Jr. leads Imhotep by a scare in a 30-26 comeback win over Roman to win District 12 5A championship

Written by: on Saturday, November 18th, 2023. Follow Joseph Santoliquito on Twitter.


PHILADELPHIA, PA — Mikal Davis Jr. sat there on the bench and kept shaking his head. He had a host of people around him, coaches, and an EMT, asking him questions, probing how he felt, and more importantly, how his head felt.

The Imhotep Charter senior quarterback had just been rocked by a jarring third-quarter hit, and when he tried getting up, fell back flat on his face. The Panthers were trailing and struggling. And once back on the bench, Davis kept shaking his head and telling everyone around him that he was not coming out.

The Army-bound Davis went into bulldozer mode and placed Imhotep on his firm shoulders to survive the Panthers biggest scare so far in their undefeated season and drive to the PIAA Class 5A state championship by beating very dangerous Roman Catholic, 30-26, in the District 12 Class 5A championship on Saturday at Northeast High School.

The Panthers remain undefeated at 12-0, thanks to three Davis’ touchdowns and some late-game heroics from Imhotep freshman Ronell Word, whose six-yard touchdown with 36 seconds left was the game-winning score.

The Imhotep defense played a huge part, too.

Pitt-bound defensive tackle Jah’Sear Whittington, linebacker Raheem Reid, defensive tackle Andre Cooper, and edge rusher Zahir Mathis clamped down when Imhotep needed stops. Freshman cornerback Maleek Drayton’s interception finished the deal in the closing seconds and everyone on the Imhotep sideline let out a collective huge sigh of relief.

Roman was outplayed in every facet of the game, yet the Cahillites’ battery of quarterback Semaj Beals and receiver Jah Jah Boyd were a huge problem all afternoon.

The two of them placed Roman (8-3) on the brink of an upset, connecting four times for 184 yards and three touchdowns, despite a torrent of Panthers’ pressure.

That’s when Davis’ poise took command. He had a tough game, losing two fumbles, and was frustrated at himself for missing open receivers. Even more fell on him when premier Georgia-bound running back Jabree Wallace-Coleman suffered an injury, which forced him out of the game. That was compounded by the Panthers having to rearrange their offensive line when two linemen were lost.

But Davis was not about to surrender. Even after the nasty shot he took with 4:59 left in the third quarter.

“I’m battle-tested. I’m a warrior, there was no way I was leaving this game,” said Davis, who completed 23 of 38 passes for 209 yards. “I was a little dizzy after that hit. There was no way I was going to leave. I was motivated, I was not happy with the way I was playing. There were no excuses. I had to put my team on my back.”

And carried them in a direction this program has not been in a while. In past years, the Panthers often crumbled under the type of adversity they faced on Saturday. Led by leaders like Davis, Penn State-bound Kenny Woseley, Whittington, Mathis, Anthony Richardson, Reid, Johann Hennington, and Nile Brown, that has not happened with this team.

Davis was not about to let that happen.

“That’s my job, I’m the captain, and we needed this, we needed to be pushed like this,” Davis said. “We got pushed. We fought back. I fought back. There was no way I was letting my teammates down. My guys count on me and I had to come through. Everyone was telling me to sit down, I wouldn’t. I wasn’t about to sit down with my team down like that. This game will stay with me forever.”

Aside from the 75-, 46- and 47-yard touchdown bombs from Beals to Boyd, the Roman offense was not able to do much of anything. Take away that total, along with minus-15 yards rushing for the game, and the Cahillites had 51 yards of total offense.

Yet, with 8:35 to play, the Panthers were perilously close to falling. Beals had just connected with Boyd for their third touchdown, putting Roman up, 26-16.

“It does take character for what these guys did,” Panthers’ coach Devon Johnson said. “I told Mikal before this game that no one has more game experience than him. He locked into the second half and made big plays when they had to make big plays. He’s our leader, he’s our guy and this team believes in him.

“We all believe in Mikal. I’m proud of our whole team, but we rock with Mikal Davis. These seniors know how to deal with pressure. We were missing one of our guards, we lost another guard during the game, and we had Ronell Word step up in a pressure moment and perform.”

But first, Davis and Imhotep answered the Beals-to-Boyd score with a 10-play, 64-yard drive, helped along by 19 yards in Roman penalties, and ended when Davis scored for the third time with 4:34 left, pulling Imhotep to within 26-23.

Another major factor was Roman stung itself by 14 penalties for 134 yards, often prolonging Imhotep’s drives, while Imhotep was flagged 10 times for 75 yards.

Then after another Roman three-and-out, the Cahillites third in their first four second-half drives, Imhotep charged back again. Another Roman penalty gave Imhotep great field position at the Roman 25. Big Davis’ completions to Hennigan and freshman Kareem Abdul Haqq put the ball at the Roman six. Word squeezed in with 36 seconds to play and the Panthers will advance to PIAA 5A state quarterfinals against Delaware Valley.

“Mikal is amazing, he led us back, and we never gave up,” Word said. “We didn’t feel or look like ourselves in the first half. I’ll be honest, we were a little scared. We weren’t ready. When it came to the second half, I had to get the job done.”

The next job ahead for Imhotep is reaching the state semifinals.

Scoring Summary

Roman Catholic (8-3) 0 19 0 7-26

Imhotep Charter (12-0) 8 0 8 14-30

1st Quarter

IC – Mikal Davis 1 run (Kenny Woseley run), 2:49

2nd Quarter

RC – Jah Jah Boyd 75 pass from Semaj Beals (kick failed), 7:42

RC – Boyd 47 pass from Beals (pass failed), 5:23

RC – Beals 1 run (Chris Whittle kick), 3:57

3rd Quarter

IC – Davis 1 run (Davis run), :17

4th Quarter

RC – Boyd 46 pass from Beals (Whittle kick), 8:35

IC – Davis 3 run (Woseley run), 4:34

IC – Ronell Word 6 run (Woseley kick), :36

Joseph Santoliquito is a hall-of-fame, 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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