HERSHEY, Pa. - Sparked by a pair of fleet playmakers and a smothering defense, Imhotep Charter continued its season-long dominance and achieved a major breakthrough Friday night.
With Mike Waters and Aamir Brown combining for five touchdowns, the Panthers, who yielded only an early field goal, blasted District 10's Erie Cathedral Prep, 40-3, in a lopsided PIAA Class AAA football final at Hersheypark Stadium.
Imhotep netted 514 yards on offense to finish with a 15-0 record and become the first Public League squad to earn statewide glory on the gridiron.
"It feels amazing for our school, our community, and the entire city," fourth-year coach Albie Crosby said. "This may be the best high school football team Philadelphia has ever seen."
Waters found pay dirt on bursts of 62, 3, and 53 yards to increase his season touchdown total to 45. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder, who doubles at outside linebacker, carried 16 times for 201 yards.
"He's a special kid," Crosby said. "Nothing comes easy for Mike. He lost his father at an early age, but he fights, fights, and fights some more."
With the Panthers ahead by 20-3 at the break, Brown, a multipurpose threat, blew open the game with a 13-yard scoring run and 41-yard TD grab over the middle. As a cornerback, he added a pair of interceptions.
Two years ago, in its first trip to Hershey, Imhotep suffered a 41-0 loss to District 7's South Fayette in the Class AA final. Losing a second time was not an option.
"It's something we've been working hard to accomplish," senior defensive end Andre Mintze said. "To make it happen, words really can't describe it."
Against Cathedral Prep, Imhotep overcame three first-quarter turnovers. A fumble gave the Ramblers (14-2) the ball 16 yards shy of the end zone, but they had to settle for Anthony Lupo's 30-yard field goal.
Did the early gaffes worry Crosby? "No, because it's a process," he said. "Thing go up and down during a game. The key is to keep your composure after something bad happens."
In the first half, Cathedral Prep managed only 46 yards rushing on 19 attempts. Sophomore quarterback Joe Mischler, who missed seven games early this season due to shoulder injury, connected on just 4 of 22 passes for 41 yards.
Imhotep's defense was spearheaded by Mintze and fellow end Shaka Toney, linebackers Waters and Amin Black, who played on despite suffering a possible broken nose, and cornerbacks Brown and Prince Smith.
Waters and Isheem Young, a rising sophomore who carried 10 carries for 99 yards and a first-quarter TD, shined behind a mammoth line anchored by guards JohnCarlo Valentin (6-5, 340) and Jahmir Johnson (6-5, 275), tackle Yasir Durant (6-6, 340), and end Naseir Upshur (6-3, 245).
Erie Cathedral Prep 3 0 0 0 - 3
Imhotep Charter 8 12 14 6 - 40
ECP: FG Anthony Lupo 30
IC: Isheem Young 5 run (Young run)
IC: Mike Waters 62 run (run failed)
IC: Waters 23 run (pass failed)
IC: Aamir Brown 13 run (run failed)
IC: Brown 41 pass from Nasir Boykin (Chris Wells run)
IC: Waters 53 run (run failed)