If the Pennsylvania high school football world wondered what would happen when Imhotep was finally tested, Friday night provided an answer.
The Panthers held off District 11's Bethlehem Catholic, 24-13, in a PIAA Class 4A state semifinal victory at Northern Lehigh.
Buoyed by a dominant second-half performance by its defense, Imhotep overcame mistakes, turnovers and penalties en route to a second consecutive state championship berth.
On Thursday, the Panthers, the defending 3A champs, will play District 10 Cathedral Prep, which beat Berks Catholic, 28-14, Friday night. Imhotep beat Cathedral Prep, 40-3, last year in the 3A title game.
"This was definitely an exciting, hard-fought win," said senior quarterback Nasir Boykin.
The excitement peaked in the fourth quarter after Bethlehem Catholic senior Brandon Kelly intercepted a pass and sprinted down field with Boykin in tow. There was one thought on Boykin's mind.
"Can't let him score," Boykin said.
The Panthers (13-0) led, 18-13, when Kelly intercepted the pass at the Panthers' 20-yard line before Boykin and Amir Lewis tracked him down near midfield.
Boykin threw into the flat late, and Kelly stepped in front. Boykin, however, wasn't afraid that he lost his team the game.
"Definitely not," he said. "I definitely count on my defense every time they go on the field. They'll always give me a chance to get back on the field to make a play."
The Panthers' defense forced the Golden Hawks (11-4) to punt, and a fumbled snap during that punt gave the Panthers excellent field position in Bethlehem territory.
Three plays later, Boykin added a 39-yard touchdown off a play-action bootleg right.
Boykin finished with 190 passing yards and a score on 11-of-18 passing. He added 53 rushing yards on nine carries.
Isheem Young, who muffed an early punt resulting in a turnover before halftime, finished with 122 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
Young also forced a fumble that was recovered by the Panthers, who led, 18-13, at the half.
Aamir Brown finished with a receiving touchdown, an interception and was important on special teams for the Panthers.
Sophomore Omar Speights added four sacks for the Panthers, who finished with 404 total yards of offense.
The defense, which had allowed 191 yards at halftime, held Bethlehem to 53 total yards in the second half.
Javon Clements led the Golden Hawks with 213 passing yards and a score on 16-of-28 passing. Randy Terry III added 61 yards on 16 carries on the ground.
The Panthers committed 13 penalties for 106 yards. The Golden Hawks drew 12 penalties for 81 yards.
Imhotep 0 18 0 6 - 24
Bethlehem Cath. 0 13 0 0 - 13
Bethlehem Catholic 0 13 0 0 13
IM: Chris Wells 8 run (run failed)
BC: Damian Diaz 1 run (Anthony Dasilva kick)
IM: Isheem Young 9 run (pass failed)
BC: Karim Powell 49 pass from Javon Clements (kick failed)
IM: Aamir Brown 30 pass from Nasir Boykin (run failed)
IM: Boykin 39 run (run failed