If anyone in Philadelphia thought Imhotep’s reign over the Public League was over, the Panthers dispensed with that notion early on Friday night, dominating Simon Gratz, 40-21, at the Marcus Foster Supersite.
“We came out ready to win,” said senior standout Isheem Young. “Everybody was doubting us. We were the underdogs. Everybody thought we were going to lose so we came out ready to play.”
Kristian Marche got the Panthers off to a great start in front of bleachers so packed that onlookers lined fences behind both end zones.
Marche, a senior speedster, took the opening kickoff 90-plus yards.
Marche’s march setup Young for a 1-yard score, and the Panthers never looked back.
With first-year coach Nick Lincoln returning to Imhotep this season and the departure of several players via transfer, some saw weaknesses in the Panthers’ pursuit of another title.
“That makes us go even harder at practice,” said Young, who finished with 72 rushing yards and 2 ground tallies. “Everybody said we fell off, that we’re no better than we were 2 years ago, which I think we are. We still are better and I think we can still win a state championship this year.”
After Marche’s spark, Imhotep’s defense played fast and fiery.
The Panthers (4-1) finished with four interceptions and dominated for large stretches in a game disjointed by frequent flags.
Tykee Smith finished with an interception and forced a fumble that Khadarius Samson returned for a touchdown resulting in a 19-3 lead with just 17.2 seconds left in the half.
In the third quarter, Yusuf Terry and Anthony Gordon scored on touchdown passes of 83 and 71 yards, respectively, from Jalen Sutton-Christian.
Gratz (3-2) eventually made a modest run and got within 33-15 with 11 minutes left.
But the Panthers responded with Zymir Cobbs’ 25-yard run with 6 minutes left.
Offensively, Carl Jones finished with 81 yards on 17 carries for Imhotep. Terry finished with 3 catches for 102 yards. Sutton-Christian finished 6-13 for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Gratz senior quarterback Amir Gillis finished 8 of 27 for 149 yards and 2 scores.
Despite its dominance, Imhotep’s postgame huddle wasn’t all smiles. Lincoln lamented his team’s 19 penalties. Gratz was ticketed 8 times.
Imhotep 7 12 14 7 40
Simon Gratz 3 0 6 12 21
IM: Isheem Young 1 run. Anthony Gordon kick.
G: Mikel Miller 35 field goal.
IM: Young 3 run. Kick failed.
IM: Khadarius Samson 20 fumble return. Run failed.
IM: Yusuf Terry 83 run from Jalen Sutton-Christian. Carl Jones run.
IM: Gordon 71 pass from Sutton-Christian. Kick failed.
G: Rich Brown 47 pass from Tarell Stewart. Kick failed.
G: Brown 81 pass from Amir Gillis. Run failed.
IM: Zymir Cobbs 25 run. Gordon kick.
G: Stewart 14 pass from Gillis. Run failed.