Imhotep becomes first city school to nab state football title

In the frigid air a hundred miles from home, senior Mike Waters knelt along the sideline and buried his face in his white gloved-hands.

Behind the star running back, a pack of bundled and blanketed fans went wild.

Before him, teammates from Imhotep Institute Charter High School danced and shouted across the field the way teenage boys do after winning a state football title, after making history.

“Surreal,” said head coach Albie Crosby near the 50-yard line.

Under the Friday night lights at Hersheypark Stadium, Imhotep (15-0) became Philadelphia’s first public-league team to hoist a PIAA state championship trophy.

The unbeaten Panthers handily beat the Ramblers of Eerie Cathedral Prep 40-3 behind a record-breaking rushing attack.

“We had a lot of savages. We had a lot of people who wanted it more than I did. Everyone made the same expectations,” said Waters, who scored three touchdowns while running 201 yards.

Imhotep had 383 rushing yards on the day, a Class AAA championship game record.

The team from East Germantown set another title game record after recording 514 yards of total offense.

But after the final whistle blew, Crosby mostly talked in big-picture terms.

“Our city goes through a lot of heartache. When you watch the news you hear about a lot of our young people dying,” said Crosby. “When these young kids accomplish things like this in front of their families and friends, get into college, it’s an amazing thing.”

So is making city and state history, he said.

“When you think about Pennsylvania football, back to Joe Namath and Jim Kelly and guys like that, it was always about the western side of the state,” said Crosby. “Now, the eastern part of the state is starting to put out some really good players too, like Sharif Floyd, Marvin Harrison. Now our kids are getting the chance to shine.”

The Ramblers struck first with a 30-yard field goal midway through the first quarter. A Panther fumble — one of three Imhotep turnovers — set up the score.

From there, it was all Imhotep.

With three minutes and 14 seconds remaining in the first quarter, running back Isheem Young scored from five yards out. After converting the two-point conversion, the Panthers had an 8-3 lead.

In the second quarter, Imhotep’s Aamir Brown intercepted the ball at his team’s 38-yard line. On the next play, Waters rushed 62 yards into the end zone to make it 14-3.

Waters scored again with less than two minutes left in the first half, a 3-yard run.

With eight minutes and six seconds left in the third quarter, his team up 20-3, Brown ran into the end zone from the 13-yard line, the first of two touchdowns.

As time expired in the third quarter, Brown scored on a 41-yard pass from quarterback Nasir Boykin, making it 34-3.

The final nail came with six minutes and 58 seconds left in the game — a 53-yard touchdown run courtesy of Waters.

The score: 40-3.

The lyrics being sung by Imhotep’s fans: “Nah Nah, Nah Nah, Hey Hey, Goodbye.”

The Panthers were on the other end of the same song the last time they reached Hershey in 2013. That year, in the Class AA title game, South Fayette blanked the Panthers 41-0.

The loss fueled the next two seasons, especially Friday night’s game.

“I had the shakes,” said Waters,” but this year we had it. Everyone was just with me and behind me the whole time.”

The Panthers missed the state playoffs in 2014, losing to Archbishop Wood in the city title game.

This season, Imhotep beat Wood 20-14 in the District 12 Class AAA championship game.

The team then thumped Academy Park (Delaware County) 46-16 in quarterfinals and throttled Saucon Valley (Lehigh Valley) 72-27 in the semi-finals.

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