PHILADELPHIA >> Gusty winds blew debris on the field at Ben Johnston Memorial Stadium Saturday night.
A sudden shift in weather — a sunny spring-like day turned winter by dusk — aptly describes the scene on the field at the time, as Cardinal O’Hara tried with all its might to keep Imhotep Charter from blowing the Lions away.
Perhaps, if the Lions kept them within their grasp, they would have a shot against last season’s PIAA Class 3A champions, and now this season’s Class 4A favorites.
Maybe, the Lions could hold onto their hats. Maybe they wouldn’t let the wind take their season away…
OK, enough of the silly weather puns.
Plain and simple, Imhotep Charter, last season’s PIAA Class 3A champion, is better than everyone else. Not just O’Hara, which showed its trademark grit and toughness. The unbeaten Panthers are on course to smash every team that comes in their way.
O’Hara’s first loss of 2016 was in its final game. The Catholic League Blue Division champion Lions suffered a 36-6 defeat to Imhotep in the District 12 Class 4A championship.
“They’re going to win a state championship, without a doubt,” said B.J. Hogan, who guided the Lions to an incredible 10-1 campaign following one win last fall. “They just have too many weapons.”
Hogan’s boys came out swinging. On their first possession, they moved the ball 44 yards and recorded three first down. Hogan leaned on his all-league quarterback, Tommy O’Hara, and the dual backfield threat of Myles Henderson and Te’ron Johnson.
Alas, once the Lions punched the ball inside Imhotep’s 40-yard line, they hit a wall and were forced to punt.
“I thought we came out in our first drive and we were moving the ball,” Hogan said. “I think that, overall, we moved the ball better than anyone they saw all season. They bend, but they don’t break.”
Hogan encapsulated all that is Imhotep in his next sentence…
“They’ve got some dudes,” he said.
Those dudes struck right away as Aamir Brown sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown on Imhotep’s first offensive play of the game. On its next drive, Imhotep needed just three plays to find paydirt. Chris Wells scampered 18 yards to make it a two-touchdown game, and by that point, it was clear that O’Hara was in for a long night.
That didn’t mean the Lions were going to quit, however.
“They were just faster than everyone else,” junior running back Nick Kutufaris said. “I thought we moved the ball pretty well for most of the night, we just never finished.”
Three of Imhotep’s touchdown runs covered 187 yards. Amir Lewis led all players with 110 yards on nine carries. Brown had 79 yards on only two touches, while Wells had 69 yards on two runs, both of which resulted in TDs.
“The quarterback (Nasir Boykins) is legit, the running back (Brown) is a big-time kid,” Hogan said. “We didn’t have things fitted the right way and he just takes it 80 yards on a big play.”
Hogan’s offense accrued 147 yards of total offense, which is probably better than most teams have fared against Imhotep. Johnson had 29 yards on the ground, while Tommy O’Hara and Henderson each finished with 28. O’Hara, a senior, completed just five passes for 61 yards, with Justin Santilla hauling in four receptions for 53 yards.
“We had a good game plan, our running backs ran hard and we blocked up front,” Hogan said. “Our kids took it as a challenge, having five seniors up front, and I think they did a great job getting movement.”
Santilla’s pick-six in the fourth quarterback accounted for the Lions’ lone score of the game.
It’s an exciting time to be a football player at Cardinal O’Hara, and a lopsided loss to one of the state’s very best will not overshadow that fact.
“I think it was a big success, especially winning the PCL. That was our main goal,” Kutufaris said. “We want to compete with guys like (Imhotep) at some point. We know what we are now and that’s a great feeling.”