Germantown High School’s closing also means the end of the annual Thanksgiving football game against the MLK Cougars. But one school’s shuttering meant another’s football roster would turn foes into teammates, and bring a new head coach from the other side of the rivalry line.
Ed Dunn, a former Germantown Bears assistant football coach, told NewsWorks on Monday that he was recently hired to fill the head coaching vacancy at MLK.
While GHS staff members fretted over where students would attend school next year, with MLK being a primary option in the closing plan, Dunn heard about the job opening at the Stenton Avenue school.
He interviewed with MLK Principal William Wade, the athletic director, several assistant principals and community members last month, ultimately landing the position. (Wade was unavailable for comment on Monday).
A graduate of Central High School and Morgan State University, Dunn said the job is a special one considering he also calls West Oak Lane home.
“A big part of why I got into teaching and coaching was to give back to the community,” he said, “and this is my neighborhood.”
Building a program, minding academics
During the interview process, he was asked to describe what he envisioned the program becoming.
“My vision is to use football as an educational vehicle to reach these kids. The carrot,” he said. “Every kid wants to play football, but not every kid wants to do what it takes to get good grades.
“We’ll hold them accountable in the classroom as we would on the football field. If they handle their responsibilities on the field and in the classroom, we’ll do our best to get them ready for the opportunity to play on the next level.”
Dunn, also a GHS math teacher, added that 20 to 25 former Bears will join him at MLK. They include wide receiver Delane Hart and lineman Dontae Angus, who have both already drawn college recruiters’ attention and offers.
A scant few were recruited away by other high schools who showed attention after GHS’ closing was announced, he said.
Already on the job
Some 50 potential players attended an “interest meeting” at MLK last week. They would join a program that the new head coach intends to turn into a year-round commitment.
“We want to build student athletes,” he said. “By having a 12-month program, football doesn’t stop and we can continue mentoring and checking in on their academics with conversations two, three, four times a week.”
The team will inherit first dibs on playing its home games at Benjamin Johnston Memorial Stadium at the Germantown Super Site, 1000 E. Sedgwick St.
What’s up for Thanksgiving?
As for the Thanksgiving game, nothing is yet set in stone. However, one possibility could spark a new neighborhood rivalry.
For now, Dunn is both looking toward the past and the future as he takes over a football team which his former side defeated handily on recent Thanksgiving mornings.
The coaches are already working to acclimate players from formerly opposing sides, as well, said Dunn, who succeeds John Sheroda as coach.
“We’re going to make MLK the [football] powerhouse of Northwest Philadelphia, a premier program,” he said. “But we also want to keep Germantown involved, the neighborhood, the alumni association. These two schools were once one. I look at it as a reunion of two families.”