When the Imhotep Panthers took the second half kickoff and rammed it into the end zone on a 31 yard pass from Nasir Boykin to Aamir Brown, Erie Cathedral Prep head coach Mike Mischler called his team to the sidelines. “I told them we can’t give up, we have to keep fighting.” Fight they did as the Ramblers completed their comeback that started when they lost to the same Imhotep in the finals last year. “We’ve been working for this all year. They’ve been working just so hard, everyone kept telling us we couldn’t win but we believed in ourselves.” The 27-20 win for the PIAA Class 4A State Championship was their reward for all that work.
The game started off as a battle of field position with Imhotep eventually coming out on top. Joe Mischler punted the ball for the Ramblers and a gusting wind might well have been a brick wall. The ball went straight up in the air and landed 6 yards away on the Prep 39. Five plays later Jeffrey Davis was on the receiving end of a Boykin 14 yard td pass. Isheem Young took the handoff on the 2 point conversion, bounced off the middle of the line and sprinted in to make it 8-0 with 6:29 left in the first.
Prep answered back going on a 13 play, 80 yard drive. Matthew Lupo ended the drive on a 1 yard run. Anthony Lupo made it 8-7 with his kick. The drive was aided by one of many penalties committed by the Panthers, a roughing the passer call that gave Prep a first down at the 24. Joe Mischler found Henry Fessler for an 18 yard gain to the 5 to set up the score. In all, Imhotep had 13 penalties for 146 yards. “We had that problem last week, I thought we addressed it but I guess we didn’t” said Panther Head Coach Mark Schmidt.
Prep found themselves pinned at their own 20 and on 4th and 1, Mischler lined up a couple yards behind center appearing as if the Ramblers would try a gutsy call, but he immediately pooch punted the ball and that stiff gusting wind took it 71 yards to the Tep 9. The Rambler defense stiffend and Notre Dame commit Matt Bauer busted through the line, taking down Boykin in the endzone for a safety to make it 9-7 Ramblers with 5:05 left in the 2nd quarter.
The Panthers had great field position to start drives most of the night, and on the ensuing drive they had the ball at their 37. On 4th and 1, Young hit the middle of the line then burst through sprinting 54 yards to put Imhotep back on top 14-9 with 1:31 left in the half.
After the Panthers made it 20-9 on the TD pass from Boykin to Brown, the Rambler defense hit another gear. “We are a brotherhood” said Bauer, who finished with 9 tackles, 2 sacks. “We just kept believing and played our game.” From that point on, the Panthers were unable to move the ball and didn’t have an answer for the Rambler defense. A key play for Prep came on the first play of the fourth quarter when Dom Covatto pounced on a Boykin fumble at the Prep 26. Mischler twice hit Fessler for 21 yards on the ensuing drive, and Anthony Lupo hit a 35 yard field goal to make it an 8 point deficit, 20-12, with 8:47 left to play.
Just 3 plays later, on third down for the Panthers, Terry Roberts stepped in front of a Boykin pass and took it 34 yards to the endzone. Mischler, who was playing with a knee injury from 2 weeks ago, bulled in for the tying conversion. 20-20 with 7:05 left. “Man, he’s been doing it for us all year” said Mischler. “When the wind quit howling in that half, we just decided to try it. The ref told me it cleared by about an inch and a half.”
Once again, Imhotep failed to move the ball and punted with just 5:50 to go. Mischler found Tyler Oedekoven streaking over the middle adn 63 yards later the Jr. receiver was in the endzone celebrating the lead with 4:56 remaining. Prep held the Panthers on 4th down and Joe Mischle, Mike Mischler’s son, ran for a first down to seal the title. “My dad, I mean coach, he asked me if I could get it and I told him I’m good to go” said the junior qb.
Mischler ended the night with 172 yards passing and one touchdown. Amazingly both teams ended up with identical net yardage of 237 yards.
Photo credit Lee Vivian