When Germantown High School football coach Michael Hawkins was recently asked his reaction to a School District proposal to close the high school where he’s also dean of students, he noted that it was the fourth time he remembers such a proposal being made.
Then, he was quoted as saying “when I retire, I want it to be from Germantown.”
He may not get that chance, and notable in the reason why is the fact that GHS students could, as soon as next year, attend MLK High School, which just happens to be GHS’s Thanksgiving Day rival.
Of bigger concern to the GHS community is the fact that the rivalry has traditionally extended off the gridiron.
“This rivalry stuff has been going on for years,” said Shelah Harper, GHS class of ’72.
“If you went to someone else’s turf, then it would have been a major problem,” continued Harper, who remembers being a senior at Germantown High School when King opened its doors. “There is not as much turf wars as it was when I was growing up, but I am … worried about transportation and safety.”
A recent grad agrees
Stacey Lane Jr., a Germantown grad who just completed his first semester at Bloomsburg University, hearkened back to having to walk just a few blocks to his high school. If students have to travel farther, it could “be a potentional safety problem,” Lane said.
“I know that my school had its problems but it’s a great school that shouldn’t close,” he said. “Germantown is better in sports than King anyway, so their students should just go there instead.”
While worry travels through Germantown’s territory, King’s football coach John Sheroda said he saw the potential change as a positive for the students.
“First of all, every student will not apply to come to King,” said Sheroda, who noted that other Public League coaches have told him a GHS/MLK merger would result in an athletics powerhouse. “The students here are looking forward to it should [they] choose to come here.
“Will there be arguments and potentional situations? Yes. But I don’t think it will be any more dramatic than it is already.”
But what of tradition?
Donna Anthony graduated from King in 1998. She now wonders what would happen to the traditional Thanksgiving games.
“The games were always something my mother and I loved to compete with,” said Donna whose mother was a GHS graduate who got very upset when Donna chose King over her Alma mater. “What will people have to look forward to next year?”
Hawkins told philly.com that he’s holding out hope that “somebody will pull it together to put the brakes on this.” When talking to his team about it, “I told them the proposal to close Germantown High is just a recommendation and not written in stone.
“These kids are the reason why I have been here for so long. … Somebody helped me get to where I am so I want to help them.”
Hawkins’ former players have already gotten into the mix. Will Parks, the GHS Class of ’11 star who now plays at the University of Arizona, attended a GHS alumni meeting at the school Tuesday night. So too did Appollos Baker, who graduated in 1991.
“Hawkins saved my life,” he said. “I was really going down a wrong path that could have ruined me. His mentoring and interventions helped shape the person I am today.”
Those are the kind of words that lend credence to Hawkins’ philosophy that equipping players with the skills they need to become successful adults is more important than won-loss records on the field.
The potential GHS closing will surely be a topic of discussion at Wednesday night’s School District public meeting. It starts at 6 p.m., and it will be held at King High.