Imhotep Charter's Andre Mintze missed the bulk of last football season after straining his left anterior cruciate ligament in Week 2 against Trinity (Ky.).
So the rising defensive end was a helpless spectator when the squad later fell to eventual PIAA state champion Archbishop Wood, 42-34, in the District 12 Class AAA final.
In Saturday's highly anticipated rematch, with Mintze and others applying steady pressure on Vikings quarterback Anthony Russo, the Panthers turned the tables on Wood and triumphed, 20-14, before a packed crowd at Northeast.
"I read all week on Twitter about people expecting us to lose," Mintze said. "We didn't let that stuff get into our heads. We went out and won the game as a team."
In addition to Mintze, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound senior, Shaka Toney, Jalen Denby, Jordan McCray, JohnCarlo Valentin, and Naseir "Pop" Upshur were part of Imhotep's up-front rotation.
In the third quarter, Panthers junior defensive back Mike Crawford stripped the ball on a Wood reverse, gathered it on a bounce, and raced 68 yards down the Imhotep sideline to even the contest at 14.
"What a great play that was," Mintze said. "He was smart enough, while staying home and coming up to make the tackle, to force the fumble and go all the way."
Mintze, who lives near 29th and Tasker in South Philadelphia, transferred to Imhotep (12-0) from West Catholic last year.
"Since coming back from the injury, he's been very driven and determined," said Panthers coach Albie Crosby, a former West assistant. "He's a strong pass rusher and plays within himself."
Russo, a Rutgers recruit, connected on 12 of 21 passes for 161 yards. His 32-yard, first-quarter strike to wideout Mark Webb gave the Vikings (11-1) a 7-0 lead.
"I really wish I could have gotten my hands on him more, but I think we did a pretty good job as a team in getting after him," Mintze said.
In the fourth quarter, with Wood trailing by 20-14 but driving at the Imhotep 17, outside linebacker Mike Waters turned the seven-time defending District 12 titlists away with an interception. The Panthers' offense ran out the last six minutes.
Waters and fellow halfback Tyliek Raynor, an Arizona recruit, combined for 171 rushing yards on 34 attempts. "That's a great duo," Mintze said. "I don't think there's any team that can stop those two guys."
Mintze, a solid student, has scholarship offers from Army, Central Florida, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Monmouth, and Pittsburgh. Duke is also showing serious interest.
Week 14. Here is this weekend's playoff schedule.
PIAA CLASS AAA QUARTERFINAL
Imhotep Charter (12-0) vs. Academy Park (13-0), at Plymouth Whitemarsh, 7.
PIAA CLASS A QUARTERFINAL
Bishop McDevitt (7-6) vs. Old Forge (12-1), at Pleasant Valley, 7.
PIAA DISTRICT 1 CLASS AAAA FINAL
North Penn (11-2) vs. Upper Dublin (13-0), at Souderton, noon.
PIAA CLASS AAAA QUARTERFINAL
Parkland (12-1) vs. La Salle (8-3), at Northeast, 1.
PIAA CLASS AA QUARTERFINAL
West Catholic (9-4) vs. Dunmore (12-1), at Northern Lehigh, 1.