It’s easy to understand why the Imhotep Institute Charter High School Panthers football team might feel a bit overlooked locally this season. Less than a mile away from their East Germantown practice field, much attention has focused on the MLK High Cougars, with the upstart football team as an emblem of School District closings and finances.
Outside of Philadelphia, though, football minds seemingly remember the Panthers reaching the state semifinals last season and have done nothing to indicate they can’t reach or surpass that this winter.
NewsWorks left a Thursday visit to practice with a sense from coaches and players that the talent which led them to those heights last year has been matched by the discipline of a gelling team. (Also shared were some offensive-scheme trade secrets that, resembling a certain pro-football team in town, were shared in an off-the-record context).
However, the noteworthy talent is still there, too.
This week, it was announced that both co-captain Deandre Scott and Temple-Owl-to-be lineman Aaron Ruff were invited to play in the annual Offense-Defense All-American Bowl all-star game in Orlando, Fla.
Head Coach Albie Crosby said these are the first two invitations for Imhotep players to participate in a game that showcased current Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newtown and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant in previous years. (He also noted that other Panthers may play in the Bowl’s showcase game for underclassmen.)
While offensive lineman Ruff has already verbally committed to the hometown Temple Owls — “I wanted to stay close to home to take care of my family, and they made it feel like home,” he explained — Scott, a safety and running back, has already visited the University of Nebraska and, among others, is talking about making an official visit to Arizona State.
“Ever since the eighth grade, this has been a goal. It’s crazy,” said Scott who, at 5-feet 8-inches tall, is often underestimated before the start of games in which he saddles himself with the burden of team leadership. “When we win, we win as a team. If we lose, it’s my fault. Growing up, I was taught to take responsibility.
“Last year, I think we succeeded because of talent and coaching. This year, we’re more on the same page and the new guys coming in are catching on really fast.”
For his part, Ruff said the invitation is a meaningful one.
“It’s a confidence builder,” he told NewsWorks. “It tells me that the hard work is paying off.”
The season so far
With the Thanksgiving game vs. MLK and the league and state playoffs still looming, the Panthers have had an impressive start to the 2013 season.
They throttled Roxborough High 46-0 last week and bested highly ranked La Salle College High School 40-28 on Sept. 7 after starting their season with a trip to Ohio to face Youngstown’s Cardinal Mooney, who they outscored 49-21.
The Panthers will try to rise to 4-0 on the season with a 3 p.m. Saturday game against School of the Future.