PHILADELPHIA — What comes up must eventually come down.
Spending its first season at the AAA level the Imhotep Charter football team has not slowed down, sporting a 10-1 record entering the City Championship game on Saturday at Northeast High. However, Archbishop Wood was not ready to relinquish the strangle hold on Class AAA competition and forced turnovers to put the Panthers in an early hole.
In the battle between two state finalists from a season ago the Vikings found a way to hold on for a victory. The 42-34 win puts Steve Devlin’s group back in the PIAA quarterfinals. They will play District One AAA champ Great Valley, next Saturday, 1 p.m., back at Martin Memorial Stadium.
“We knew they would keep coming back at us,’ Vikings coach Steve Devlin said. “Imhotep is ranked very high in the state and that was a great football team and we ended up with more points than they did. That’s all we wanted, was one more point than them.’
The Panthers (10-2) expected early that Wood (11-1) would be no walkover and points would be a must. On the opening drive Mike Waters was stopped short on a risky fourth and two call from their own 40 yard line. The following play, the Vikings first offensive play of the game, fullback Alex Arcangeli rumbled 40 yards for the score.
“I did not think I was going to get the first carry, but I was happy coach was able to give it to me,’ Arcangeli said. “I had a lot of energy built up and that first play is usually great for me. It was an awesome feeling to burst out for a long touchdown.’
The Panthers gambled on several occasions. There were a few fourth down conversions that led to a 14-play drive and their only points in first half when back-up running back Mike Waters, filling in for the injured Tyliek Rynor, scored from three yards out. Waters finished with 107 yards on the ground and caught a 13-yard touchdown pass.
Quarterback Andre Druitt Parks threw four touchdown passes in all. His favorite target was D.J. Moore, who had seven catches for 211 yards, including scores from 90 and 71 yards out in the fourth quarter.
“We had a feeling their offense would eventually come alive,’ Arcangeli said. “We had to keep on piling up the points. Our defense did just enough for us to win.’
However the gambles also failed too often and the defending AAA state champs took advantage. Jarrett McClenton scored four rushing touchdowns and Jake Cooper caught a 19-yard dagger before halftime to keep a strangle hold on the game, the city, and Class AAA.
“We ran at a slower pace to keep their offense off the field,’ Devlin said. “When we had to throw the ball we completed stuff, like to Jake for a huge touchdown.’
McClenton, the All-Catholic Leaguer who is heading to Villanova next season, was contained for the majority of the night between the twenties, but was strong in the red zone. He had 30 yards on 12 carries in the first half, but an 80-yard spurt with 10 seconds left in the third quarter helped him finish with strong overall numbers.
“Imhotep has good defensive guys,’ Devlin said. “They are big, strong, and fast, but we did a good job of controlling things.’
The Vikings junior quarterback Anthony Russo rifled a few well-time tosses to his tight ends to keep the Panthers defense off-balance and Arcangeli powered to 100 hard rushing yards. The Vikings finished with 417 total yards of offense, though they allowed 467 in the City Championship.
“Hold on to the ball, that was all I was thinking about,’ Arcangeli said. “Their offense was very explosive. This is unlike anything I have ever been a part of. We work so hard and it is all worth it.’
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