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Southeastern Pennsylvania Football Rankings: Cheltenham jumps into Top 10

The Panthers have won 10 in a row to advance to the District 1 Class 5A finals for the first time in program history.

Senior Nate Edwards (left) and his brother, junior Sam Sykes, each scored touchdowns in Cheltenham's 42-20 win over Kennett in the District 1 Class 5A semifinals.
Senior Nate Edwards (left) and his brother, junior Sam Sykes, each scored touchdowns in Cheltenham's 42-20 win over Kennett in the District 1 Class 5A semifinals.Read moreMICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

Cheltenham High football seems to make history every week.

On Friday night, the Panthers advanced to the District 1 Class 5A finals for the first time with a 42-20 victory over Kennett in the semifinals.

The previous weekend, Cheltenham set a program record for victories in a season.

Now 12-1, the Panthers jump into the Top 10 rankings for the first time this season on the strength of a 10-game winning streak. They’ve scored at least 28 points in every win in the run, topping the 40-point mark five times.

Here’s the new Top 10, with last week’s ranking in parentheses:

1. St. Joseph’s Prep (1) 9-2: Kolbe Burrell ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns and reserve quarterback Malik Cooper ran for 103 yards and two scores as the Hawks beat Northeast 43-26 to capture their fourth straight Class 6A city championship. The big question for St. Joseph’s Prep is the health of star quarterback Kyle McCord, an Ohio State recruit who sat out Saturday night’s game with a knee injury. Coach Tim Roken said McCord is “day-to-day.” St. Joseph’s Prep continues its drive for a second straight state title with a quarterfinal matchup with District 11 champion Nazareth (12-1) Friday night at Liberty High School.

2. Downingtown West (2) 12-1: Will Mahmud caught a pair of scoring passes from Will Howard, and Tyriq Lewis scored his 34th and 35th touchdowns of the season as the Whippets beat Haverford 49-42 in a wild District 1 Class 6A semifinal. Howard passed for 254 yards and three scores as Downingtown West built leads of 35-7 and 42-14 before withstanding a furious rally by the visiting Fords. The victory set a school record for wins in a season and advanced the Whippets to the district finals, where they will host old rival Coatesville. How old? According to sports historian Chuck Langerman, the title game will be the 121st meeting between the schools, with Coatesville having won the first game by 13-0 in 1913. Expect a slightly higher score on Friday night.

3. Coatesville (3) 9-2: Dapree Bryant, Ricky Ortega and Co. will not surrender their District 1 Class 6A title without a serious fight. Bryant returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns and Ortega ran for two scores and passed for three more as the two-time defending champions beat Garnett Valley 48-27 and advanced to meet host Downingtown West. Coatesville is the only team to beat Downingtown West this season, scoring a 29-21 victory on Oct. 18. For his career, Ortega has accounted for an astounding 174 touchdowns (124 passing, 48 rushing, two receiving), per Langerman’s reseach. Be aware, Whippets fans: Ortega regards Kottmeyer Stadium as his favorite place to play.

4. Episcopal Academy (4) 9-1: Maurcus McDaniel was 95-for-141 (67.3 percent) passing for 1,311 yards and 15 touchdowns with just two interceptions and rushed 212 times for 1,329 yards and 21 touchdowns this season for the Churchmen, who were a one-point, overtime loss to Germantown Academy away from the program’s first perfect season since 2012.

5. Northeast (7) 11-2: The Vikings pushed St. Joseph’s Prep to the limit on Saturday night, jumping to a 14-0 lead and scoring a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to stay in contention in the Class 6A city title game. Quarterback Charles Britt passed for 287 yards and two touchdowns and running back Jon-Luke Peaker generated 127 rushing yards, setting the tone for the Vikings with an 85-yard scoring burst on the team’s first possession. Northeast closes its season with its annual Thanksgiving Day game vs. old rival Central.

6. Archbishop Wood (7) 7-3: Ryan DiVergilis snared a pair of interceptions and ran for a score as the Vikings beat Martin Luther King 51-14 to capture the Class 5A city title Saturday afternoon at Northeast. Andrew McHugh added a touchdown on a punt return for Archbishop Wood, which held the Public League champions to 50 rushing yards in capturing its fourth straight District 12 championship. Archbishop Wood meets District 11 champion Southern Lehigh (11-1) in the state quarterfinals Friday at Pennridge.

7. Imhotep Charter (9) 8-4: D’Shaun Seals and Terrance McAdams caught touchdown passes from Jalen Sutton-Christian as the Panthers beat Bonner-Prendergast 35-14 in the city 4A title game. But the game’s biggest play was a 91-yard fumble return for touchdown late in the first half by sophomore Keon Wylie. Imhotep Charter, which has won seven of eight since an 0-3 start, advanced to meet District 2 champion Dallas (13-0) in the Class 4A state quarterfinals Friday night at Lehighton.

8. Garnet Valley (6) 11-2: Ryan Gallagher led a third-quarter surge as the Jaguars took a 27-20 lead over Coatesville in the district semifinals before the Red Raiders scored the game’s final 28 points. Gallagher ran for one score and hit Shane Mullholland with a 30-yard strike as Garnet Valley took the lead. Garnet Valley finished another strong season as undefeated Central League champions for the second year in a row, with an 11-game winning streak and with a campaign bracketed by losses to the District 1 Class 6A finalists, Downingtown West and Coatesville.

9. Haverford (8) 10-3: OK, maybe it wasn’t a moral victory, not for a proud and accomplished Fords team as well as a tough old coach in Joe Gallagher. But Haverford players held their heads high after twice roaring back from 28-point deficits and putting a serious scare into Downingtown West before falling 49-42 in the district semifinals. Playing at less than 100 percent because of a hip injury, senior quarterback Trey Blair was nothing short of spectacular, rushing for 249 yards and two scores and passing for three more touchdowns. “He’s amazing,” Downingtown West coach Mike Milano said of Blair. “And he was doing it on one leg.” The Fords, who had won 10 in a row, have a chance to finish the season on a high note as they will host old rival Upper Darby on Thanksgiving morning.

10. Cheltenham (NR) 12-1: Nate Edwards took a fake punt to the house and also returned an interception for a score in the win over Kennett. Adonis Hunter added three touchdown runs as Cheltenham advanced to host Academy Park in Friday’s district title game.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Academy Park (11-2), Bonner-Prendergast (9-2), Central Bucks West (10-2), Downingtown East (9-2), Germantown Academy (7-2), La Salle (8-3) Neumann-Goretti (11-1) North Penn (8-4), Plymouth-Whitemarsh (9-2), Pope John Paul II (10-3), West Chester East (9-3), West Chester Rustin (9-4).