“It’s not about what we did out there. It’s about what we did during the week. That jawn was pretty,” said head football coach Edward Dunn of the Martin Luther King High Cougars after a 34-6 victory over Abraham Lincoln High School.
September was coming to an end, school had been in session for about three weeks, and the Cougars had just won their third game in a row. There had been some bumps in the road, sure. King’s season had begun almost one month ago, with two consecutive losses.
The school year had started with what seemed like a black cloud overhead: the closing of 24 Philadelphia public schools, a budget shortfall in the hundreds of millions and severely reduced staff.
Germantown High School was one of the 24 schools shuttered at the end of the last school year. Students and as a result, football players, would have the option to transfer to Martin Luther King High.
There were lingering doubts that the two schools, seen as neighborhood and football rivals, could possibly play together. In the annual Thanksgiving Day game two years ago, fists and helmets flew in a fight between players from Germantown and King. Some predicted there might be disorder, violence or at the least, an inability to play as one.
In an article by New York Times reporter, Jeré Longman, MLK principal William C. Wade summed it up as, “adults living in the past.”
Edward Dunn, a 27-year-old math teacher took over as head coach after working as an assistant coach for Germantown. He immediately began introducing players from both schools hoping that they could lead by example.
Dunn set a goal to win the public league championship in his rookie year as head coach. He was ultimately successful. King won its first ever football championship under his guidance.
For a team that had not won a game outright in the 2012 season, its only win coming by forfeit, it was at once a remarkable turnaround and — Coach Dunn hopes — the first of many successful seasons for the Cougars.
The Cougars lost in the city championship to the Archbishop Wood Vikings.
“Nobody even thought [players from MLK and GHS] would get along,” Dunn said following the teams final game. “We have the opportunity now to start building a program.”
The Cougars played one last game, an update of the old Thanksgiving Day game. But this time, against the Imhotep Charter Panthers of East Germantown.
The Cougars would end their season in storybook fashion with a 32-30 last-second victory.Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misstated the former high school of head football coach Edward Dunn. Dunn is a graduate of Central High School.