Imhotep Charter made history by becoming the first public school from Philadelphia to win a state football crown. The school plans to recognize the players and coaches in a ceremony on Tuesday.
That's when the accomplishment might sink in for Albie Crosby. "It still feels kind of surreal," the Panthers head coach said Saturday. "Maybe it will be different in a few days."
Racking up 514 yards on offense and overcoming three first-quarter turnovers, Imhotep, with its jaw-dropping speed, size, and physical toughness, overpowered Erie Cathedral Prep, 40-3, Friday night in the PIAA Class 3A final at chilly Hersheypark Stadium.
En route to a 15-0 record, the Panthers outscored foes by 702-104, knocked off two-time defending state champ Archbishop Wood, and reached the top of the mountain after falling short of that goal in Class 2A in 2013.
"To have your hard work pay off like this, it's a real blessing," senior defensive end Andre Mintze said. "It was a total team effort."
Imhotep, founded in 1998 and located at 21st and Godfrey in East Germantown, is an African-centered school with an enrollment of nearly 600.
Many of the students struggle with financial and family problems. So perseverance, along with mentoring from Crosby and the other coaches, was key in the drive to state gold.
With the lead of Troy Gore and a few other Philadelphia firefighters, Imhotep started the program in the early 2000s. Crosby, who came over from West Catholic, took control in 2012.
"I never wanted my own team," he said. "It was when West was supposed to close that I decided to come here."
Crosby, who also coached at La Salle University before it discontinued football in 2007, has guided the Panthers to a 53-6 record (.898 winning percentage).
What's next for Imhotep? For starters, with the PIAA moving to six classifications in football next school year, it will play up a level in Class 4A. Imhotep, Cathedral Prep, Allentown Central Catholic, Berwick, Harrisburg's Bishop McDevitt, and Thomas Jefferson are expected to be among the group's top contenders.
Does that mean an end to the two-year rivalry between the Panthers and Archbishop Wood, which will be in Class 5A?
"Maybe we could play each other during the regular season," Crosby said. "We would love that."
In addition to Aamir Brown (two interceptions) and Isheem Young (10 carries, 99 yards, and a TD), Imhotep anticipates the return of three other major contributors: quarterback Nasir Boykin, middle linebacker Amin Black (11 tackles vs. Cathedral Prep), and offensive tackle Justin Johnson (6-7, 345).
Championships. With the switch to six classifications, here is the slate, times to be announced Monday, for next year's state football finals: Class 4A on Thursday; Class 1A and 5A on Friday; and Class 2A, 3A, and 6A on Saturday.
All-Stars. Imhotep offensive lineman JohnCarlo Valentin, Wood QB Anthony Russo, and Prep Charter defensive lineman Karamo Dioubate were selected to play for the U.S. under-19 national team against Canada in the 2016 International Bowl on Jan. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.