Crawford and Waters Shine as Imhotep Claim Philly City Title
Philadelphia, Pa., Any high school football junkie knows that its rare to predict exactly when two powerhouse football programs will collide to determine a champion. As far back as August though just about any junkie in Philadelphia knew that the weekend of November 27 would be the one that Archbishop Wood and Imhotep Charter would compete to determine the District 12, AAA Philly city title and advance in the state tourney. I actually spoke to a couple of Bishop McDevitt players (the Harrisburg team) who drove over 100 miles to see this one. No one came away disappointed as Imhotep held off Wood 20-14.
So here we are. Archbishop Wood, the defending three time state champ run by the very successful Steve Devlin and Albie Crosby’s Imhotep Panthers. Both staffs littered with great assistants and a combination of 10 to 15 players who may be playing Division 1 ball next year. By game time there was not an empty seat seen anywhere at Northeast High’s Charles Martin Stadium.
It was apparent just from viewing the pregame warm up that the speed of this game would most likely not rival anything I’ve seen in a long time at this level. As both teams take pride in the numbers they produce offensively though, this game hinged on not one but three of the best defensive plays ever witnessed at Charles Martin.
In last year’s meeting between the two teams Wood ran up a 21-0 lead before Imhotep began to settle down and get back into the flow. The start of this one had that same flavor with Imhotep losing 14 yards on a three and out followed by Viking (and Rutgers bound) quarterback Anthony Russo’s 32 yard touchdown pass to Mark Webb only three minutes into the first quarter. To Imhotep’s credit they did not let this one get out of hand and battled back in the second stanza after Andre Mintz recovered a Wood fumble in Panther territory. In Imhotep’s ensuing drive quarterback Nasir Boykin’s nifty play fake and perfectly executed screen to Aamir Brown for a touchdown gave them an 8-7 lead going into the locker room at the half.
Like any Hollywood script, this one had the looks of second half dramatics and without question, neither team disappointed. The Vikings came out of the gates in the second half with a nine play, 72 yard drive behind Raheem Blackshear’s running and a couple of Russo connections ending in Shawn Thompson 2 yard TD to take a 14-8 lead and momentum. On Imhotep’s next possession, the Vikings Danny Freeman jumped a route and made a sensational diving interception off Boykin in Panther territory.
Someone had to make a play for Imhotep to save their season. That play happened three plays later when Wood executed a perfect reverse which left no one but Jordan Johnson and DB Mike Crawford between them and the end zone. At that point Crawford squared his shoulders engaged Johnson stripped the ball scooped, then scored from 67 yards on one of the wildest plays ever in the antics of Pa football.
Entering the 4th Quarter and the score tied at 14 the game was there for someone else to make a play as well as their season for either team. If the 4th quarter had to be someone’s, that person was Panther RB,DB, Mike Waters. Imhotep scored again in seven plays with Waters pounding in from 2 yards out and breaking two tackles on great second effort for a 20-14 lead. On Wood’s next possession Russo drove down to the Panther 17 by virtue of Waters interference penalty. He atoned for the penalty on the next play by making a game saving pick off Russo by the Panther sideline and barely keeping one foot in bounds. Imhotep ate up the rest of the clock by running Tyliek Raynor successfully on either their strong side power or Wood’s weak side.
As soon as the game ended there was a whirlwind of emotions on the Panther sideline. Defensive Coordinator and longtime Neshaminy coach Mark Schmidt, who just engineered one of the best defensive game plans took off his headset with 20 seconds remaining looking totally drained and thanking a few of his assistants. Coach Crosby was grabbed by multiple players and incredibly broke free of the Gatorade dumping by running toward the bleachers. At that point he threw his fist up to the crowd in a scene that would have made headlines in Hollywood.
The win gives Crosby a matchup with undefeated District One champ Academy Park at Plymouth Whitemarsh. Wood to their credit handled the loss with total class from the coaching staff to each and every player. They gave us fans not only an outstanding season of football but something that high school sports enthusiasts yearn for: a great competitive, respectful night for everyone to remember for a long time. Kudos to both programs.
Tidbits: Imhotep has AA numbers but chose to play up in classification. Besides owning a cannon for an arm Russo also posses great hips as evidenced with his sudden turns in throwing passes out in the boundary. Wood played the entire game with strict precision and balance. Many came away with this team more impressed in a losing effort. They are a class team from top to bottom.
Scoring By Quarter
WOOD- Webb- 32 pass from Russo- (PAT-Zanine)
IMHOTEP- Brown- 23 pass from Boykin (2 pt conv- Waters-run)
WOOD- Thompson- 2 run (PAT- Zanine)
IMHOTEP- Crawford- 67 fumble return-(2 PT Conv- failed)
IMHOTEP- Waters- 2 run- (2 Pt Conv-failed)
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