MIKE WATERS didn't even enter the season as the starting running back for Imhotep Charter. But by year's end, the 5-10, 192-pound senior had broken several city rushing records en route to the Panthers' historic Class AAA state championship.
As the Daily News presents its 2015 All-City football list, Waters headlines our top honorees.
The Northeast Philadelphia resident scored a record 42 rushing touchdowns this season. He also set a single-season mark for total touchdowns, with 45.
Jarrett McClenton (now at Villanova) had set the rushing touchdown record (37) last season for Archbishop Wood. McClenton also shared the overall TD record (42) with West Catholic's Rob Hollomon (2008).
Waters took over the Panthers' starting job after University of Arizona-bound Tyliek Raynor was injured early in the season.
In the Class AAA final against District 10's Erie Cathedral Prep, Waters finished with 201 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries (12.5 yards per attempt). By a 40-3 score, the Panthers became the first Public League team to win a PIAA football championship.
Waters also was named the Associated Press Class AAA Player of the Year.
On the year, Waters finished with 1,889 yards on 160 carries (11.8 per carry). In addition to his rushing TDs, he scored twice on receptions and once on an interception return as a linebacker.
Archbishop Wood's Anthony Russo also was victimized by a Waters interception in the AAA city title game. Russo, one of our co-Catholic League Players of the Year, still authored a record-breaking season. The 6-4, 225-pound senior quarterback set a Catholic League single-season mark for touchdown passes with 34. La Salle's Brett Gordon had 33 in 1997, according to TedSilary.com.
Russo also finished atop the city with 35 passing touchdowns and 2,452 passing yards. He averaged the most yards per game (204) and was second in the city in completion rate (67 percent) for those with at least 71 attempts. Russo also was named to the AP's Class AAA all-state team.
Haverford School receiver Dox Aitken, our Inter-Ac Player of the Year, didn't have the benefit of stability at quarterback but still baffled defenses all season.
Aitken, who will play lacrosse at the University of Virginia next season, averaged the most receiving yards per game this season (95.3) with help from junior QB Tommy Toal, who led the undefeated Fords (10-0) to glory after senior starter Kevin Carter was injured in their third game.
Aitken, a 6-3, 195-pound senior, also caught 44 passes, only three off the city lead despite playing in only nine games and catching passes from two QBs. He was the main offensive catalyst in the air all season with 858 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Aitken also intercepted five passes as a defensive back and was also one of the league's best punters.
Speaking of all-around athletic prowess, West Catholic's Craig Jones, our other co-Catholic League Player of the Year, certainly fits the bill.
The 6-foot, 185-pound senior was a force on both sides of the ball for the Catholic League AA champion Burrs (10-5, 4-0). As a defensive back, Jones was named to the AP Class AA all-state team.
Jones finished with 35 receptions for 949 yards (27 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns. As a return man, he added four scores via kickoff and three on punts, and he also had one off an interception. He led the Catholic League with seven interceptions.
His 17 total touchdowns were second to Lansdale Catholic running back Ryan Quigley, who finished with 23.
Our Coach of the Year is Imhotep's Albie Crosby. His state-champion Panthers finished 15-0 after averaging 46.8 points per game and allowing only 6.9.
Since Crosby took over in 2012, the Panthers have gone 24-0 in regular-season Pub play, 55-6 overall, and collected four Pub titles (two in AA, two in AAA).
In his four seasons, the Panthers have beaten Pub teams by a combined score of 1,877 to 234. That includes a 2-0 forfeit win against Del-Val Charter in 2013 and a 40-0 win this season against School of the Future, which requested the game be halted after nine minutes, nine seconds because of its lopsided nature.
Coach of the Year: Albie Crosby, Imhotep Charter
Players of the Year: Mike Waters, Imhotep Charter (Public League)
Anthony Russo, Archbishop Wood; Craig Jones, West Catholic (Catholic League)
Dox Aitken, Haverford School (Inter-Ac)
L Yasir Durante Imhotep Charter 6-7 335 Sr.
L JohnCarlo Valentin Imhotep Charter 6-4 285 Sr.
L Brian Denoncour Haverford School 6-2 241 Sr.
L Matt McDermott La Salle 6-2 260 Sr.
L Dave Lynch Malvern Prep 6-0 230 Sr.
Rec. Javier Buffalo Ben Franklin 6-0 190 Sr.
Rec. Dox Aitken Haverford School 6-3 195 Sr.
Rec. Naseir Upshur Imhotep Charter 6-4 236 Sr.
QB Anthony Russo Archbishop Wood 6-4 220 Sr.
RB Mike Waters Imhotep Charter 5-10 192 Sr.
RB O'Shaan Allison Malvern Prep 5-8 165 So.
MP Nick Rinella La Salle 5-9 190 Sr.
MP Raheem Blackshear Archbishop Wood 6-0 170 Jr..
MP D'Andre Swift St. Joseph's Prep 5-10 205 Jr..
K Matt Savage La Salle 5-8 173 Sr.
P DeJason Ellis Mastery North 5-7 179 Sr.
L Raquan Thomas Simon Gratz 6-4 304 Sr.
L Andre Mintze Imhotep Charter 6-4 227 Sr.
L Shaka Toney Imhotep Charter 6-4 205 Sr.
L Karamo Dioubate Prep Charter 6-4 265 Sr.
L Tymir Oliver West Catholic 6-4 265 Sr.
LB Mickey Kober Haverford School 6-0 198 Sr.
LB Shawn Jenkins Simon Gratz 6-1 225 Sr.
LB Amir Postley West Catholic 6-1 210 Sr.
B Craig Jones West Catholic 6-0 185 Sr.
B Yeedee Thaenrat Father Judge 5-10 191 Sr.
B Benny Walls St. Joseph's Prep 6-0 200 Sr.
B Micah Sims Haverford School 5-9 165 Sr.
L Mikal Cherry Del-Val Charter 6-5 297 Sr.
L Jimmy Morrissey La Salle 6-4 290 Sr.
L Jahmir Johnson Imhotep 6-5 272 Sr.
L Zack Dorsonne Northeast 6-1 240 Sr.
L Cameron Brown Simon Gratz 6-3 285 Sr.
L Ed Mooney St. Joseph's Prep 6-1 270 Sr.
Rec Rasheem James Ben Franklin 6-0 180 Sr.
Rec Mark Webb Archbishop Wood 6-3 190 Sr.
Rec Shaheed Brown Del-Val 5-10 170 Sr.
QB Josh Evans West Catholic 6-3 180 Sr.
QB Tommy Toal Haverford School 6-0 175 Jr.
RB Luke White Simon Gratz 5-8 175 Sr.
RB Answered Gleplay John Bartram 5-8 175 So.
MP Dontae Mason Bishop McDevitt 5-9 160 Sr.
MP Quadir Strothers Prep Charter 5-7 165 Sr.
K Dan Zanine Archbishop Wood 5-8 195 Jr.
P Michael Raczak La Salle 6-5 195 Sr.
L Joe DuMond St. Joseph's Prep 6-1 235 Sr.
L Ryan Murray Malvern Prep 6-0 230 Sr.
L Savion Perez Father Judge 6-1 206 Jr.
L Frank Cresta Haverford School 6-2 230 Sr.
L Jordan McCray Imhotep Charter 6-2 215 Sr.
LB Nick Vandevere St. Joseph's Prep 6-0 220 Sr.
LB Sebastian Silva Archbishop Wood 5-10 215 Sr.
B Jaquan Amos Northeast 6-0 170 Jr.
B Ryan Quigley Lansdale Catholic 5-11 185 Sr.
B Justin Gies Father Judge 5-11 161 Jr.
B Naim Franklin Frankford 5-11 174 Sr.
B Javon Whitfield Simon Gratz 5-10 185 Sr.
L T.J. Garvin La Salle 6-4 255 Sr.
L Charlie Holsopple St. Joseph's Prep 6-4 265 Sr.
L Kurt Stengel Archbishop Wood 6-4 260 Sr.
L Jake Glavin Malvern Prep 6-2 290 Jr.
L CharlyTimite Simon Gratz 6-4 270 Sr.
QB Nasir Boykin Imhotep Charter 6-0 182 Jr.
QB Shayne Smith Del-Val 6-1 168 Sr.
QB Mike Hnatkowsky Penn Charter 6-1 201 Jr.
RB Syaire Madden La Salle 5-9 180 Jr.
RB Amir Paulk Northeast 5-8 160 Jr.
Rec Jeffrey Davis Washington 5-8 155 Jr.
Rec Jaron Macon Bishop McDevitt 6-2 170 So.
MP Keith Moore Northeast 5-9 150 Jr.
MP Peter Hutton West Philadelphia 5-8 150 Sr.
MP Ralph Hyland Frankford 5-10 182 Sr.
K Vince Capone Gtn. Academy 6-0 180 Jr.
P Christian DaSilva Fels 6-1 200 Sr.
L Mustapha Owens West Philadelphia 6-4 240 Sr.
L Chris Maloney La Salle 6-2 205 So.
L Anthony Amoroso Cardinal O'Hara 6-0 240 Sr.
L Dylan Dopkin Archbishop Ryan 5-10 220 Sr.
L Omar Peterkin Archbishop Wood 6-3 290 Sr.
L Keyon McCloud-Holman Ben Franklin 6-0 270 Sr.
L Amir Baylock Simon Gratz 6-1 290 Sr.
LB Dee Barlee Episcopal Acad. 5-10 195 Sr.
LB Robert Taggart Father Judge 5-10 191 Sr.
LB James Johnson St. Joseph's Prep 5-10 195 Jr.
LB Pat McGettigan Gtn. Academy 6-1 225 Jr.
LB Blake Schwartz Central 5-10 200 Jr.
LB Rahmir Johnson Simon Gratz 5-10 195 Sr.
LB Nasir Womack Central 6-0 200 Sr.
B Paul Sanchez Martin Luther King 5-10 185 Sr.
B Charles Gary Archbishop Ryan 6-1 195 Sr.
B Gianni Cruel Archbishop Wood 6-0 170 Sr.
B Khalil Roane Neumann-Goretti 5-11 200 Sr.
B Jimmy McAfee Gtn. Academy 5-10 180 Sr.
B Dan Baker Episcopal Acad. 6-1 162 Jr.
B Collin Washington Central 6-0 180 Jr.
On Twitter: @AceCarterINQ