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Imhotep remains undefeated with a 24-14 win over Malvern Prep

Written by: on Saturday, September 16th, 2023. Follow Joseph Santoliquito on Twitter.


Right to left Anthony Richardson, Jabril Wallace-Coleman, and Zafir Stewart

PHILADELPHIA — The path is clear now. Imhotep’s road grader made sure of that Friday night, moving and plowing through previously undefeated Malvern Prep to the tune of 364 yards rushing in the Panthers’ 24-14 victory at the Germantown Super Site.

For the first time in Imhotep coach Devon Johnson’s four-year tenure, the Panthers will begin their Philadelphia Public League schedule with a pristine 4-0 record.

At the tip of the spear has been Imhotep’s offensive front, consisting of Illinois-bound left tackle Zafir Stewart, left guards David Johnson and Joshua Lee-White, center Anthony Richardson, right guard Nick Williams, and right tackle Brian Moore.

Combined the group opened gaping holes for Georgia-bound running back Jabril Wallace-Coleman to have a career night, rushing for 278 yards on 39 carries and two touchdowns.

There doesn’t appear to be a team in the Public League that will challenge the undefeated Panthers, leaving them with a fairly easy slate until December.

It’s why Johnson schedules tough programs like Malvern Prep. It’s the first stage of how the Panthers’ coach likes to break down a season. This non-league portion has seen Imhotep win in comeback fashion in consecutive weeks. The previous week, the Panthers surged by Maryland power Archbishop Spalding, 21-17. This week, the Panthers came back from two deficits, 7-0 and 14-10. Both times the defense held strong in crucial situations, highlighted—once again—by yet another interception from sophomore safety Willie Norris, who has four picks this season, one in each game, and the stellar work by the offensive line.

In the past, Imhotep has had teams like this, bolting out strong, only to fade in December. This team has exhibited poise and determination throughout the first month of the season and a collective willful pride that embraces the doubt they know they will receive when they reach the PIAA Class 5A state finals.

“During this offseason, we committed ourselves to getting better, and it took us some time to get over losing in the state finals last year,” Stewart said. “We went from a roster to a team this year, and blocking for Jabril is easy. We know he’ll reach the second level.

“Malvern did not want us to come at them, and bring the pressure to them. They had a hard time adjusting to that. We know the history here, and we looked at the last four games knowing the only ones who can stop us is us. Looking at December, we just can’t get too big-headed. We know we’re going into the part of our season where we’re going to be facing teams we’re about to demolish. Everyone knows that. We know what we have to do.”

Richardson certainly knows. He’s the quarterback of the offensive line. He’s also one of the more underrated players in the area. When Wallace-Coleman went looking for a hole to run through, it was often created inside by the work Richardson did.

“We’re more focused and more dominant this year,” said Richardson, a two-year starter. “Personally, I’ve been in the weight room and having my mind right. I got better at working on my craft. We need to stay focused and keep going. We go through challenges by challenging ourselves every day.”

Wallace-Coleman promises to be a huge test for any team in the Western part of the state that tries to stop him. He averaged 7.1 yards a carry against a solid Malvern Prep defense.

He often was not touched until he was eight, sometimes nine yards downfield.

“I would say this is the best the offensive line ever did,” Wallace-Coleman said. “Every time, the line opened up big holes for me. Most of my runs were inside the zone. My line did a good job getting to the second level. I’ve never started a season 4-0 here, and I’m a three-year starter.

“We know the talk in the city and across the state. People expect us to get to the state finals and choke. This team is different. We won’t. Everyone has to know that. I feel so much stronger and so much more confident. Coming into this year. Our attitude is win the state championship or bust. We can’t afford to choke again.”

Johnson pointed to his coaching staff in getting Imhotep here the first month of the season. Offensive coordinator Glenn Hutton, offensive line coach Ron Hainey, assistant coaches Aaron Brown, and coaching veteran Mark Schmidt have molded a team expected to sustain its dominance into December.

“It’s those guys who did it, my staff, and it’s the reason why our offensive line is better than I expected them to be at this time,” Johnson said. “We returned our whole offensive line, and they have exceeded expectations.”

Malvern Prep led twice, 7-0, on an Andrew Pellicciotta 39-yard run in the first quarter, and 14-10 on Zeke Bate’s seven-yard touchdown reception from Skyler Smith in the third. Each time, Imhotep responded with a score. Penn State-bound cornerback Kenny Woseley concluded the first half by booting a 32-yard field goal, another weapon the Panthers did not have in the past, and Naim Dantzler and Norris came up with red-zone interceptions that stomped out Malvern Prep drives.

“They’re a really good football team, they have a really good defense, and I thought we came out and did some good things, but ultimately, the mistakes got us,” Malvern Prep coach Dave Gueriera said. “I learned I have a talented team, but losing to a talented team like Imhotep there is no shame in that. I would have liked to win this, but we didn’t capitalize when we had chances. The mistakes got us.”

What finished everything was Imhotep’s 14-play, 90-yard series that chewed up at least eight minutes of the clock and ended with Wallace-Coleman’s second touchdown of the game, which gave the Panthers a 24-14 edge.

“We know how good we are because we face the best defense in the state—our defense—every day at practice,” Stewart said. “Steel sharpens steel.”

And it’s looking like that may translate into gold by December.

Scoring Summary

Malvern Prep (2-1) 7 0 7 0-14

Imhotep Charter (4-0) 7 3 7 7-24

1st Quarter

MP – Andrew Pellicciotta 39 run (Jack Ploszay kick), 8:23

IC – Jabree Wallace-Coleman 4 run (Kenny Woseley kick), 4:43

2nd Quarter

IC – Woseley 32 FG, 5:00

3rd Quarter

MP – Zeke Bates 7 pass from Skyler Smith (Ploszay kick), 8:30

IC – Mikal Davis 1 run (Woseley kick), 4:25

4th Quarter

IC – Wallace-Coleman 13 run (Woseley kick), 5:32

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been covering high school football since 1992 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter @JSantoliquito. Follow on Twitter @EPAFootball.

Follow on Twitter @EPAFootball

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