A look at how the seven Northeast teams may fare in the upcoming football season.
Last year was a good one for Northeast-area football schools.
There was a league championship, four teams won playoff games and all but one of the local schools made it to the postseason.
There were all-stars, milestones, historical wins and standout performances.
And there were a lot of great seniors who moved on to college.
This year, the teams will return with high hopes. Northeast High School will look to repeat as champions, George Washington will look for better results under a new coach, and Abraham Lincoln will attempt to win its second playoff game since 1989. The first came in November.
Here is a look at the prospects of the seven Northeast Philadelphia teams.
A season ago, the Raiders advanced to the Catholic League Class 5A championship before falling to eventual state champ Archbishop Wood.
This year, the team has a lot of new faces, but coach Frank McArdle believes those new faces will lead to success.
The offense will run through two quarterbacks.
Chris Reed, who played most of the season last year, comes in as the starter, but he’ll receive help from Jahlil Sanders.
The running game is in good hands with tailbacks Mike Minnitti and Jason Jefferson leading the way. Other skill-position players include tight end Dan McBride and receivers Xavier King, Kyron Long, Dylan Carris and Justin Colier.
Ryan had a strong offensive line a season ago, and this year will have one of the top players in the Red Division in tackle Tim Moulton, who is receiving interest from Division I schools. He’ll work with Sean Conaway and Brett Tetlow in the pit.
Defensively, Ryan will rely on Moulton, Aiden Degan and Justin Hanratty.
At linebacker will be Colin Boyd and Jimmy Dolan. Micahi Lang, Tyrek Chappel, Sanders and Long will line up at defensive back.
Not all of the faces will be familiar, but McArdle believes the Raiders will be a fun team to follow.
“We’ll get better every week because they’re young, but these guys are good football players,” McArdle said.
“We lost some guys, but the kids we had really rallied and they had a very good camp.
“We play in a division with St. Joe’s Prep and La Salle, who are two of the best 6A schools in the state, and Wood, which is always playing for a (5A) championship. It’s a tough league, but our guys are getting better and better.”
The Crusaders had an explosive offense a season ago, but this year will be without the services of quarterback Rob King and wideout Justin Gies, who are both in college.
That doesn’t mean Judge won’t have a potent offense. Shane Dooley, a junior, takes over at quarterback after starting at safety a season ago. His primary weapon will be Timmy Weldon, a senior tailback who led Judge in rushing a season ago.
Weldon will also have playmakers on the outside with receivers Steve Arrington, Katob Joseph, Ryan Jakeman, Nick Conway and Sean Cunningham. Ed Fahey will work at tight end.
Judge had a solid offensive line a season ago, and thus far it looks like they’ll have another solid year, according to coach Mike McKay. The line will feature Dan Adams, Sammy Pasoni, Mike Jacoby, Mike Waring and Justin Martinez.
Depth could be a concern for the Crusaders, who will have a lot of players going both ways. The defense will be anchored by linebacker Mark Maguire, who will also see time at fullback.
The line will include Weldon, Jacoby and Waring. Other linebackers are Conway and Fahey, and Jakeman, Dooley and Joseph will mix in at defensive back.
Judge’s biggest challenge will be getting through a rough three-week stretch that includes games at La Salle, at Wood and against St. Joe’s Prep, but McKay is optimistic about his team’s outlook.
“We are young, but these young guys are pretty good football players,” McKay said. “The offensive line is really young, but they’re holding up.
“The division is tough, but I’m really happy about the work ethic. We don’t have a lot of seniors, but the ones we have are setting the tone. They worked hard in the offseason and they’re still working hard.”
The Railsplitters went 6–6 on the field last year, but it was a memorable one. It marked the first time in 17 years Lincoln managed to win a playoff game. It followed up the triumph with a close loss to Northeast.
While Lincoln has to replace its franchise quarterback Allston Augustin, the Railsplitters still have talented running back Sam Karr, who provided them with some huge plays a season ago.
He’ll accept handoffs from first-year starting quarterback Abdoulaye Ndiqye.
Looking to make plays with the ball will be receivers Nyseen Young and Wayne Sympkins, and Matt Wasco will line up at tight end.
Anchoring the Railsplitters line will be Danta Price, Earnest Agwu, Kenny Brough and Donnie Rembert.
The defense will look similar to the offense with Agwu, Brough, Wasco and Price manning the front four, Karr and Rembert playing linebacker, and Ndique, Young and Sympkins playing in the defensive backfield.
Last year was a great step for Lincoln, but coach Ed McGettigan is far from satisfied.
“We’re making strides, we’ve had a really good two weeks of practice,” McGettigan said. “I think they don’t want to regress after making the playoffs last year and winning a game. I think they want to see if we can go further.
“We have good players to replace, it’s tough to replace a quarterback like Allston, but we have a good running game and will try to use that to set up the pass.”
In some ways, 2016 was a typical Frankford season because the Pioneers played late into the season, advancing to the Public League Class 5A title. But in other ways, it wasn’t your typical Pioneers. Sure, Frankford could run the ball, but last year it relied heavily on the pass thanks to seniors Mikey Morell and Esky Lopez.
This year, Tariq Mines will replace Morell, and his favorite targets will be tight end Kyle Powell and wideout Juwan Tabb. Jodean Price will start at running back, and the line will be led by tackles Danny Lewis and Tyreese Smith.
Depth could be a concern, as all of the offensive stars will see action on defense.
Mines and Tabb will play defensive back, Price and Powell will play linebacker, and Lewis and Smith will see time on the line.
Coach Dom Doyle is optimistic the team can once again be competitive in the Public League, but there will be growing pains with the new faces
“Our strength this year is going to be with our team unity and fundamentals,” Doyle said. “This season, our goal is to improve on last season and be competitive in every game.”
The Eagles have a proud tradition of football. Washington has won 12 Public League championships, and the school traditionally churns out players who excel at the college level.
That’s why 2016 was a downer. Washington failed to win a game while losing 11.
This year, Stephen Benzio takes over as head coach and he thinks the Eagles can make great strides.
The team will be led by an offensive line that includes Quameer Knight at tight end, along with Arnold White, Nasir Whitaker, Joe Scott and Patrick Padgeon. They’ll be blocking for skill-position athletes Donald Cole, Shamar Kelly, Rahmir Williams, Tyree Sheard and George Lewis.
Knight, White, Stott and Padgeon will play defensive line, Whitaker will play linebacker, and Sheard, Williams, Lewis and Cole will play defensive back.
Benzio is hoping last year’s slump gets rectified quickly.
“We have a strong returning class,” Benzio said. “(The players) showed great work ethic during the offseason strength and condition.
“We’re expecting a strong campaign after a young team went 0–11 last year.”
The Vikings have been one of the most successful teams in the city over the past two years. A year after going undefeated before losing in the Public League championship, the Vikings rebounded to win the Class 6A title.
This year, at least on paper, the Vikings look like they have what it takes to make another run at the championship.
This year, Northeast will turn the offense over to Dan Scott, who was one of the team’s primary ball carriers a season ago. New to Northeast’s backfield will be Ubayd Steed and Semeen Thompson.
Their blockers include tight end DeShawn McCarthy and linemen Aziz Kaba, Dore’ Gilyard and Ormond Isom, who last year was one of the top tackles in the city.
The defense has a pair of top performers back in safety Carlos Divila and linebacker Kyle Morasch. Potential new stars include defensive end Deshawn McCarthy and cornerback Alex Martin.
Coach Phil Gormley has built a team of players who expect success, and that’s the plan this year, too.
“The kids have worked very hard in the offseason,” Gormley said. “We have excellent team speed, and although we lost a lot of good players, we have some very good young players stepping up to take their turn.
”If we stay healthy and keep working hard, we expect to compete for another championship.”
The Panthers made the Public League playoffs for the third time in school history a season ago, and while they failed to win a game, it gave the team a taste of success.
According to coach William Harrigan, they enjoyed the experience.
This year’s team is still working out the kinks, but it does have some strong leaders in the form of quarterback Desmond Jackson and athletes Jalen Bryson and Quadir Phillips.
The Panthers do have young players in key areas, but Harrigan still believes the team can remain competitive in the Public League.
“We are getting a lot of hard work from our returning players and enthusiasm from our new guys,” Harrigan said. “We’ll look to compete in each game, as we always do. A young group of linemen developing quickly could determine the season.” ••