By Bill Sorrell
Trailing 21-7 at halftime, Germantown head coach Tommy Ferrill set the second-half table for his football team that included a full-course dinner for a giant-sized appetite.
“The only way you eat an elephant is to keep chewing. That is what we did,” said Ferrill after the Red Devils rallied from 21 points down in the second quarter to lose 21-20 to Cordova on Friday in Germantown.
“I loved the way we played. We played hard. We didn’t give up. We played every play like it was the last one and that is the only way we can get better. I’m not disappointed.
“We’ve got great kids. They have great character and that is all it takes. The score is always 0-0. We are trying to play every play like it is the most important play of the game. You have to have that motto.”
Improving to 2-0, the Wolves partially blocked Germantown kicker Izzy Cobos’ extra point with 1 minute left in the game. A 4-yard touchdown run by Marrieon Claybrooks had pulled the Red Devils to within 21-20, capping a 70-yard drive.
In his first season as head coach, Ferrill wanted to go for a two-point conversion but “miscommunication” he said resulted in a 5-yard delay of game penalty that forced Cobos to kick farther.
“It was my fault. We have got to do a better job on the sideline communicating,” said Ferrill. “We can get better everywhere especially game awareness.”
The loss ended the Red Devils’ 22-game regular-season winning streak, with their last regular-season loss Oct. 21, 2016, against White Station.
It was Cordova’s second straight one-point win after defeating Central 13-12 in the season opener.
“That is why we are known as the Cardiac Kids. We expect to win every time we go out. If we take care of our business and do what we are supposed to do and act like we are well coached then we will come out with a victory. Two down, a lot to go,” said Cordova head coach Marcus Wimberly.
“We were kind of blind going into this game. It was a new coach. We didn’t have a lot of film on them. We focused on us, correct our mistakes. We feel like we can adjust in the game to whatever they are doing.
“Luckily we got a good start and that is what we wanted. We held on at the end for dear life. We like to make things difficult for some reason, too many mistakes at the end. We got complacent especially right before halftime.”
His son junior quarterback Cameron Wimberly said, “Tonight was a big win for us. I know they were on a big win streak. Everybody thought we were going to lose this game. We don’t have a lot of respect around the city right now.
“This will teach us how to win close games and to add toughness to finish the game and not let them come back. We have to finish strong. These games shouldn’t be close like this.”
Right before the first half ended, the Red Devils (1-1) got a needed momentum boost when junior quarterback T.J. Tate threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Melik Smith with 2 seconds left. Cobos nailed the extra point.
“That was a huge turning point in the game,” said Germantown senior tight end John Paul Penn, a team captain along with Dannie Towles, Marcus Askew, Duane Akon and Cole Cocroft.
Wimberly said, “We gave them an inch and they took it.”
It took the Wolves three minutes to get their first score. Cameron Wimberly threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Falandis Norry with 9:01 left.
After the Red Devils got as close as the Cordova 19 but failed to convert on fourth-and-six, the Wolves capped a 76-yard drive when Wimberly, who took over quarterbacking in spring practice after playing linebacker last season, scored on a 3-yard run with 16 seconds left in the first quarter.
Wimberly scored his second touchdown with 7:09 left in the second quarter and the Wolves led 21-0. Reuben Musuluma kicked all three extra points.
Cordova took its 7-0 lead after Kristopher Williams intercepted a Will Fisher pass at the Germantown 25.
The second touchdown was fueled by a great catch by Rommie Vasser from Wimberly at the Cordova 35. Sean Barnes then sprinted 62 yards to the Red Devils 3 with 29 seconds left in the first quarter.
“We were dominating at first but we let them get momentum right before half. They scored that big touchdown,” said Cameron Wimberly.
Cordova power running back DeQwan “Tank” Bevill, a sophomore, said, “It hurt right there.”
Said Tate of the first-half touchdown, “That was pretty.”
Penn said, “We kept pushing even though we were down by three touchdowns. We went to halftime and got our things together and came back and kept fighting, That is huge.”
Ferrill said, “We played hard. The whole second half the defense played, the offense came to play. We kept little by little inching back into it.”
After spotting Cordova’s first second half possession that included Wimberly running 25 yards for a first down to the Cordova 41, Towles, a senior linebacker, made a big fourth down tackle on Wimberly at the Germantown 39-yard line with 5:51 left.
Getting the ball for the first time in the third quarter, the Red Devils were held and Penn, who had a second-quarter punt and also made the tackle of the returner, was forced to punt.
Playing behind Tennessee kicker Marshall Ware last year, Penn is punting for the first time on varsity. As an 8-year old he won the Germantown Punt, Pass and Kick competition.
Cordova muffled Penn’s punt, bouncing off the returner, and Germantown senior Chris Edney recovered on the Wolves 33.
Tate ran 3 yards to the 30. Running a sweep Akon got to the 26.
Tate ran to the 16 before the Wolves were charged with a pass interference penalty. On fourth and one, Cordova was offsides.
With a first down at the 3-yard line another T.J., T.J. Dorsey scored with 1:49 left in the third. Cobos made it 21-14. “That was big,” said Penn.
With 1:31 left in the third Bevill had an outstanding 40-yard run to the Germantown 43. Some top defensive plays by Germantown lineman Myles Saulsberry and Gerald Salter thwarted the drive.
Beginning the fourth quarter the Red Devils were on their 20-yard line. A 15-yard pass interference penalty on Cordova and later a first-down run by Dorsey got them to their 46. Four runs by Claybrooks covering 18 yards led to a first down at the Cordova 32. On fourth and three, Tater threw a first down pass to Josh Cooper at the 22. Tate then hit Akon for a first down to the 7. However a bad snap from Germantown’S center led to a fumble and Cordova took over with 7:16 left in the game.
“We never let that affect us,” said Tate.
The Red Devils got the ball back but Cordova defensive back Brandon Robinson sacked Tate for a 10-yard loss a the 10.
A 39-yard pass from Tate to Smith got the Red Devils a first down at their 49 with 2:56 left.
Claybrooks ran for a first down to the 30. Tate passed to Akon for a first down before Tate ran to the 18 then to the 4 with 1:15 left. Claybrooks took it from there for the touchdown and it was 21-20. There would be no extra point conversion.
“This is a tough loss. It’s never easy to lose especially by one,” said Penn. “It’s not going to keep us down. We are going to come back Monday and get back to work for DeSoto Central.” The game is at Germantown at 7 p.m. Friday. Cordova visits Mississippi powerhouse South Panola.
Marcus Wimberly, who coached East to a state championship in 2016, said that while the Wolves improved execution from their first game, they were challenged.
“We like to make things difficult for some reason, too many mistakes at the end. We had some breakdowns mentally. When things got a little tight they refocused. Everybody kept fighting. We played a lot more guys than we did last week to get them going because in the long haul we are going to need everybody to step up.
“It always comes down to penalties and turnovers. If we can eliminate those we’ll finish the game with a very good night. We made it hard against a very good team, an intelligent team that has a lot of talent and do a good job. It was a hard fought game. If we see them again down the line we can’t make mistakes.”
One of the top players for the Wolves was senior wide receiver Josh Hastings. He had a 15-yard run in the second quarter along with receptions.
“They have a good receiving corps. Josh Hastings had a good game tonight defending against him,” said Penn. Hastings was a freshman at Germantown before transferring to Cordova. He and Penn were MVPs of the freshman team.
“It’s a plethora of guys who had a good game,” said Marcus Wimberly.
Bevill, Norry, Hastings, my son everybody played a part. I have a gritty bunch. That is why we learn how to fight. We have to learn to win, how to be mentally tough.”
At halftime he told his team to “be smart” and “give nothing.”
Unranked at the beginning of the season, Wimberly has wanted his team to “focus on us. We lift weights in the off-season while everybody else is asleep. I tell the guys to work on something, do push ups, watch film, get better. We are all about development and these guys are developing to be a better team.”
Extremely elusive, Cameron Wimberly has filled the role at quarterback. “I’ll try Dad,” he said as spring drills began.
Marcus Wimberly said, “We didn’t have a quarterback. He has done a tremendous job making plays. Of course he is going to make some mistakes because he is a rookie. It’s been satisfying.
“I made it his choice. I want him to have love for the game. I did not push him to do any particular sport. He was about 7 or 8 years old when he started playing football.”
There is nothing difficult about playing for his father Cameron said.
“I am treated equally like everybody else. Me and my teammates are equal in his eyes.”
Bevill, who got the nickname Tank in Little League from his uncle and coach Antonio Huntsman, had a solid night.
“He is a doing a tremendous job. He is getting better and better every week. He is doing to be a force to deal with.,” said Marcus Wimberly.
Bevill said, “I thank God. If it wasn’t for God, I wouldn’t be here. I thank my O-line. My O-line pushes me every week to be the best.”
Marcus Wimberly and assistant coach Gary Deberry have pushed him at practice.
“I’m not even believing I am starting as a sophomore. I kept grinding in practice, every day on the field. Thank you coach. I love ya’ll,” said Bevill. “When I got this (jersey number) 24 on I am going to show up.”
Once refocusing when the Red Devils came back, the Wolves kept their goals in front of them said Bevill. “We got to work, everybody from freshmen to seniors. We are ready for anybody.”
Had the Red Devils made the final extra point, Cameron Wimberly said this team would have been ready to rally.
“I feel confident in my team. We were going to be able to go down and score another touchdown,” he said.
Tate said that the Red Devils “played a great game. We came out a little slow. Germantown has always been a second half team. We always stay with the fight and never give up. Me and my brothers have been playing together since 9th grade. We already had a special bond and know what to do for each other. If everybody does their assignments nobody can stop us.”
Tate, who runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds, praised his receivers who did “110 percent. My running back T.J. Dorsey did a great job tonight, Claybrooks did a great job.”
He was pleased with “the way my boys came out and held my back for me.”
The Red Devils had numerous third and fourth down conversions.
Penn, who managed to get open multiple times, praised Tate, Dorsey, Claybrooks for making “a lot of big plays.”
The offensive line of Curt Garrett (right tackle), Jayden Barksdale (right guard), Jaylen Grissom (center), Chad Cocroft (left guard), Laterio Stigger (left tackle, who sustained an injury in the game) helped the Red Devils’ effort.
Saulsberry “came up big tonight,” said Penn. “Dannie Towles had a big night and had a big stop.”
Ferrill said, “We play a lot of defensive linemen. Everybody that plays is really good.”
Saulsberry, a sophomore, said, “I did good but could have done better. We did what we were supposed to do, come back in the second half. We couldn’t pull it off. We play together as a team and keep working at practice.”
Penn said, “Those little things you piece them together and you come out on top. Tonight that is not how it worked out.”
Said Tate, “We still gave our all. This is nothing but a learning lesson for me and my team. We have always been called three-peat (Germantown won Region 8-6A titles in 2017 and 2018). We needed this loss to humble ourselves but we going back for a three-peat.”