Imhotep eager to take next step and win it all

RON TARVER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Coach Albie Crosby says the Panthers have unfinished business this football season.
RON TARVER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Coach Albie Crosby says the Panthers have unfinished business this football season.
Posted: August 22, 2014

A QUICK LOOK at the last two seasons of Imhotep Charter football produces some jaw-dropping numbers.

The Panthers have amassed a 27-4 overall record, with a 10-0 mark in Public League play. Add to that scoring 1,313 points while allowing only 314 during that span, and you have clear-cut dominance.

However, coach Albie Crosby, soon to enter his third season, isn't satisfied.

"This year's slogan is: 'Still not done,' " he said while his Panthers polished their play behind the Lonnie Young Recreation Center. "And, people can take that whatever way they want, but we're still not done."

The obvious reference was to last year's PIAA Class AA title loss to South Fayette, a 41-0 trouncing in Hershey. This season, the Panthers have moved up to Class AAA, which should provide a different level of competition. However, Crosby's crew should be well-equipped.

"This may be my best team ever," he said, adding, "The biggest thing is that we've been together now, and a lot of the younger guys know me and know what I expect, but the bigger part is that we all have the same goal.

"We're looking for a state championship. We didn't perform as well as we would have liked in the final, and we didn't believe that was Imhotep football. I really feel bad. Me as a coach, I really feel bad that we didn't do right by our city."

With wide receiver Denniston "DJ" Moore (Maryland) headlining the list of senior commits, and nationally sought-after tight end Naseir "Pop" Upshur topping a talented junior class, the Panthers certainly won't lack for talent. But success won't come easily.

Imhotep will start the season against Cardinal Mooney (Youngstown, Ohio) followed by a trip to Kentucky to play Trinity High. Then, after playing at Boys' Latin in Game 3, the Panthers' first home game will be against Friendship Collegiate Academy from Washington, D.C.

"So we have three tough teams and then we go into our league," Crosby said, "which is going to be challenging for us because . . . now we're playing some teams that we're not familiar with."

However, the matchup some around the city are already talking about is a potential city title bout with Archbishop Wood, which, since 2008, has dominated the AAA series, with a 292-56 point differential (all victories).

"But they have a tough road over there," Crosby said, alluding to Archbishop Ryan, which beat Wood, 22-7, last season when the Raiders were classified as AAAA. "So they have some tough ones over there that they have to rumble with before they can even think about us, and we have to go through some tough ones, [too]."

No matter what happens, it's clear the Panthers, who lost in the 2012 semifinals before falling in last season's finale, are looking to take the next step.

"We looked like a team that we don't want to be," Crosby said. "And we allowed people to say that's what Philadelphia football looks like, and I feel bad. And it's my fault that we didn't put on for our city, and it won't happen again . . . it won't happen again."

Northeast on the map

The streets are talking about Northeast High's football Vikings. And, with news of senior defensive end Gladimir "The Destroyer" Paul committing to Virginia on Tuesday, the chatter is unlikely to quiet.

After a 3-2 regular season (5-7 overall) in Public League Gold play last year, Paul and fellow senior Asa Manley, the team's top returning rusher, give the Vikings formidable offensive/defensive experience.

Roster turnover between perennial powers Frankford and Washington, plus Martin Luther King High's move up from AAA, has caused some uncertainty in the Class AAAA divisions (now named One and Two), which could give the Vikings an opportunity at the highest level.

"I'm very excited," Paul said. "We have a lot of talent and depth on this team. Even if someone gets hurt, we wouldn't have to panic too much, because we'd have someone to replace him."

Manley, whom coach Phil Gormley said will switch from running back to quarterback this season, is a 6-1, 190-pound do-it-all player for Northeast.

"He held for kicks and punted with a 40-plus yard average [last year]," Gormley said. "I don't think there's anything the kid can't do."

Gormley figures Manley for a collegiate defensive back and said a few schools have shown interest. Paul is a 6-2, 210-pound pass-rusher who tallied 28 sacks last season.

"I'm excited, too," said Gormley, who previously coached Jenkintown for 2 years and was also an assistant at NE for 12. "We had a young team last year. It was my first year back in the league from the suburbs, and it took a little while to get things headed in the direction we wanted."

But, no matter who's talking about expectations, Gormley, like most coaches, seemed to take a measured approached.

When asked whether he had anything else to add about the season, Gormley said: "Not really. Just trying to stay under the radar, work hard and try to get things rolling in the right direction. We have Roman [scrimmage] Thursday morning, so that will be a pretty good test."

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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