The Panthers plan to be in Hershey 3 months from now in the state finals, and are off to a wild start with a big win over Catholic League boss La Salle, 40-28, Saturday.
No one else in the 2A division looks to be a factor, although when Prep Charter goes to the Northwest Supersite in Mount Airy in late October to play Imhotep, it could be undefeated. Prep Charter also will play with a serious edge, because of schoolwide sports sanctions that could keep the Huskies out of the playoffs.
The Pub 4A looks to be a tossup, but defending champ Frankford could come out on top. George Washington looks to be a hair behind. Both teams are very strong along the lines. Northeast is now coached by a familiar face in Phil Gormley, who was a longtime assistant. He has some holdovers and will be boosted by a few key transfers.
Central has a veteran club with playmakers on both sides of the ball, none more decorated than Walt Pegues, who will be used mostly at tailback this season. Coach Rich Drayton's club is the dark horse here.
And then there's Southern High, newly merged with former Bok Tech and now coached by former Bok boss Frank Natale, who will blend kids from four schools: Southern, Bok, Audenried and Parkway Center City. Natale says, "The starters are a blend of everybody."
In the 3A, King looked to be a slight favorite over Gratz this preseason. However, Gratz already has conquered the Cougars, as has Mastery North. Franklin then stunned Gratz, setting up a battle of 2-0 teams this weekend, between Mastery North and Franklin. King has three premium quality seniors in Florida-committed tackle Dontae Angus (6-6 320), playmaking WR/OLB Delane Hart (6-4 190) and Mastbaum/Bodine transfer QB Joseph Walker (6-4 185) who might be the city's top quarterback.
Much has been made of the King-Germantown merger. So much so that a documentary is being filmed on the Cougars sideline each week. The new head man is Ed Dunn and he says, "Our main focus is turning this thing into a winning tradition." Gratz owns both size, sprinter-like speed and quality depth all over.
Mastery North is led by a top-flight player in senior wide receiver/safety Jermaine Norris, who put up eye-popping stats on both sides in 2012.
Franklin is led by senior handyman Rafael "Macho" Rodriguez and a lunch-pail type crew that take on the personality of fiery coach David Carter.