Defense is likely key for Imhotep in 4A state semifinal

Imhotep Charter's Amir Lewis tries to break free from Malvern Prep's Rich Heany in a September game. STEVEN M. FALK / Staff

A defense's speed and athleticism alone aren't likely to limit opponents to just one score per game through an entire season.

Ample time dedicated to film study, which then must be translated to the practice field and applied on game day, is also necessary.

Friday at 7 p.m. at Northern Lehigh, Imhotep's defense will likely face its most complete offensive challenge against District 11's Bethlehem Catholic.

As it has throughout the season, the Panthers' defensive success will come from brains as well as brawn.

First-year Imhotep coach Mark Schmidt said the Panthers watch film two to three times a week as a team and then dedicate practice time toward opponents' tendencies.

The Panthers, however, also watch game film on their own, sometimes while commuting on public transportation or while at home.

"That's the cool part," Schmidt said. "These guys really seem to care about being good at what they're doing."

Teams all across the city and state watch film together, and many players likely watch game film on their own. But couple some of the area's best defensive talent with a desire to study the game and the result is dominance.

In 12 games this season, Imhotep's defense has five shutouts and has not allowed more than eight points in a game. (This doesn't include a 2-0 playoff forfeit win against Dobbins, which didn't have enough eligible players because of this month's SEPTA strike).

In fact, the Panthers (12-0) have given up just 40 points all season for an average of 3.3 points per game.

The Golden Hawks (11-3) enter Friday averaging 34.8 points per game and 46.5 points in their last two contests.

"It'll definitely be our best challenge on defense," Schmidt said. "They're quick as far as tempo, and they have weapons. It's not a one-man show."

Bethlehem Catholic junior quarterback Javon Clements, a 6-foot-1, 194-pounder, has thrown for 1,626 yards and 19 touchdowns. At 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, senior running back Randy Terry III leads the team with 1,660 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground.

Among the strengths of Imhotep's defense is its play in the middle of the field.

Nose guard Jalen Denby, a 6-foot, 345-pound senior, Saleem Lockett, a 6-3, 285-pound senior, and Amin Black, a 5-11, 230-pound senior linebacker, anchor the middle up front.

In the secondary, sophomore Tykee Smith, a 5-11, 185-pound strong safety, and hard-hitting junior Isheem Young, a 5-11, 195-pound junior free safety, patrol the airways and make plays in the running game.

"I think when you look at any football team you try to look at the strengths down the middle," Schmidt said, "and all five of those guys are pretty special football players."

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Cartera@phillynews.com