Sophomore pass rusher helps lead Imhotep's impressive defense
Sacking the quarterback requires moving multiple young men against their will. Strength, however, isn't the only key. If it was, Imhotep Charter sophomore Omar Speights, a chiseled 6-foot-2, 228-pound lineman, would have been an even quicker study.
Sacking the quarterback requires moving multiple young men against their will.
Strength, however, isn't the only key.
If it was, Imhotep Charter sophomore Omar Speights, a chiseled 6-foot-2, 228-pound lineman, would have been an even quicker study.
Speights' four-sack performance Friday night in the 4A semifinals against District 11's Bethlehem Catholic propelled the Panthers (13-0) to a second consecutive PIAA championship game berth.
Now, Imhotep will play District 10's Cathedral Prep (13-0) on Thursday in Hershey for the Class 4A championship. Last season, the Panthers mauled the Ramblers, 40-3, in the 3A title game.
Speights, a converted linebacker who transferred from St. Joseph's Prep, said he struggled early with using his hands while pass rushing.
Some of the credit for his success, Speights said, belongs to 6-foot-7, 335-pound offensive lineman Justin Johnson.
"My coaches, too," Speights said. "But going against Justin Johnson every day in practice I think really developed me."
"He would get his hands on me first and, because he's so tall, his arms are long, and I would just get stuck," Speights added.
Imhotep coach Mark Schmidt agreed that Speights has gotten better with his hands, but he also noted improvements at reading blocking schemes and taking on blocks.
"Hopefully he's still got some more to give," Schmidt said. "I really thought he was the star of the game. He bailed us out with one or two sacks there at the right time."
Schmidt also had praise for Jalen Denby, Saleem Lockett, and Kamal Harrison, who make up the rest of the Panthers' starting four-man front. Speed rushers Zymir Cobbs and Jermaine Wilson, both juniors, are also in the rotation.
After surrendering 191 yards in the first half, the Panthers defense gave up just 53 total yards in the second.
Speights, whose brother, Jeromy Reichner, is a sophomore defensive lineman at Temple, said he struggled balancing the academic load as a freshman at the Prep with the commitment to football.
In the classroom, he now reports better time management and about a 3.7 GPA, he said. On the field, Speights said, he has reached his season goal of 15 sacks but is still hungry for more.
"I just hold myself to a higher standard," he said. "I don't like being average, so I just set my goals high so I can achieve them and get better every day."