Last year was the best year we’ve had in football in a while.
We produced only one championship, with Northeast High School winning the Public League 6A championship for the sixth year in a row, but the Vikings weren’t the only good team in the area last year.
In the Catholic League, Archbishop Ryan and Father Judge, which represented the Catholic League in the 5A championship, both had much improved seasons, and in the Public League, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington piled up wins en route to the playoffs, and Frankford made it to the Public League 5A championship. Samuel Fels wasn’t a playoff team, but did improve as the season went on and was hampered by playing only four games.
This year, expect more of the same. If you’re a fan of high school football teams in Northeast Philly, you might want to keep weekends open in early November, because we could once again have a lot of teams competing in the postseason.
Here is a look at the local teams competing in football.
After going winless two years ago, the Raiders rebounded under coach Bill Murphy last year to win six games. They failed to make the playoffs, however, because Ryan lost to Bonner-Prendergast during the regular season and the winner represented the PCL in the 4A playoffs.
This year, Ryan might be even better than it was a season ago.
Tommy Gontz, Aidan Clancy and Nick Rogers are battling to take over at quarterback and whoever ends up with the job should have a lot of weapons to work with. Rich Paczewski, a wideout, will likely be his favorite target, but he’ll also have receivers Sean Roemhild, Cory Demas, Damien Morgan, David Spinelli and Dave Montgomery, as well as running backs Kyle Schumann, Okeem Stallings, Christon M. Brown and David Laws to work with.
Last year, Ryan had a very good line and that should stay the same. Jack Ruskowski anchors a line that will also include David Obasi, Kevin Roemhild, John Petitt, Connor Horger, Ethan Large and Vinnie Piermatto. They’ll have help from tight ends McDermott Murphy and Mike Stelmach.
The Raiders have a lot of players this year, but that doesn’t mean the best players won’t play both ways.
Linemen include Ruskowski, Stallings, Petitt, Horger, Piermatteo, Murphy, Rogers, Obasi, Montgomery and Kevin Roemhild. Linebackers include Brian Callahan, Gontz, Brown, Laws, Stelmach and Schumann. Seeing time at defensive back will be Sean Roemhild, Paczewski, Morgan, Demas and Spinelli.
Last year, Bill Murphy led Ryan to a successful season, but he believes the team can take another step this year and possibly play into November and possibly beyond.
“We should be solid upfront on both sides of the ball, which we feel will be our strength this season,” Murphy said. “After a great offseason and a year of maturing, I feel if this team stays healthy and plays with discipline that we can make a run in our division and at state playoffs.”
Frank McArdle has helped the Crusaders improve every year since he’s been there, and this year that trend could very well continue.
Judge lost a lot of good players from last year’s team that won seven games and played in the city championship game, but also returns a lot of very good players, so while there could be some growing pains, Judge should make noise in a very tough division.
The Crusaders had a very good offensive line last year, and this unit should once again be stout. Sean Broderick and Chris Coulter will play tackle, with Steve Parkinson, Evan Seklecki and Tom Gonglik filling out the rest of the line. Tearan Peete, a basketball star, will play tight end.
Those guys will lead the way for a gifted group of skilled guys, including quarterback Tyler Yerkov. He’ll work with Jake Marquis and Justin Nikkolopolous, who can each line up anywhere, running back Eric Smith and receivers Dylan Rome, Nymeir Appling, Denzel Dunbar, Luke Moore and Derrick Kennedy.
The defense will consist of linemen Parkinson and Seklecki, linebackers Braedon McLauglin and Peete, and Marquis, Rome, Smith, Appling, Dunbar, Moore, Kennedy and Yerkov will rotate in at defensive back.
Judge still has a crazy Red Division schedule that includes games against Prep, La Salle, Roman and Wood, but the Crusaders have the makings of a fine football team.
“We played a ton of sophomores last year so we are a year older, a year bigger and a year stronger,” McArdle said.”We still have a very young team. I think we will get better every week. If we can shore up a few positions, I feel like we can be pretty good.”
The Railsplitters won eight games a season ago, including a playoff game. Lincoln has been very successful under Hakeem Cooper, and this year could be another good season.
The offense will be led by senior quarterback Khani Knight. He’ll return to lead an offense that includes running back Koyei Simmons-Green and receivers Darius Hill, Rolling Davis and Ziyon Bredell.
The offense should be explosive, and the defense should be quite stingy. Led by defensive tackle Quron Aderson and defensive backs Jaden Harris, Dyrell Steele and Tyreek Brown. Lincoln’s defense is packed with good athletes, just like the offense.
“(We have an) explosive offense and physical defense,” Cooper said. “We are more than just a team. We’re a family.”
The Pioneers are traditionally a football powerhouse, and last year they returned to their winning ways thanks in part to a defense that posted shutouts in seven of 11 games. They also advanced to the Public League Class 5A championship.
Frankford was hit hard by graduation, but returns enough talent to again give opposing teams problems.
Quarterback Mattie Pelligrino returns under center. He’ll be well protected by a line anchored by David Nguyen. When running the ball, Frankford will turn to Nafis Smith and Nelson Acevedo, and when Pelligrino throws, his favorite target will be Hysiem Zimmerman.
With some good returning starters and newcomers who have some varsity experience, Frankford will once again be tough.
“Our strength will be our senior quarterback, a senior interior line and running backs,” Brockington said. “The only thing I know is they have varsity experience, but they are under a new program with different expectations.
“We have seasoned veterans and (a lot of young players). We have one of the toughest schedules in the Public League. I can’t wait to see what my young guys have to offer.”
The Eagles won six games last year and qualified for postseason play under coach Kyle Benzio. This year, they’ll be led by new coach Austin Brasche. And he has some talent to work with.
Washington has historically had good linemen, and this year that should continue with Isiah Thomas and Colin Giel anchoring both lines at tackle. Cesar Patterson will also see time on both sides of the line.
Offensive weapons the Eagles will deploy this season include receivers Jon Cebollero, Mario Lopez, Matt Kling and Christian Shaw, running backs Patrick Wright and Terell Farris, and fullbacks Jacob Hull and Qadir Carr. All of the skill position players listed will also see time on defense.
The coach is new, but the players aren’t, so the experience should pay off once the season gets going.
“This team brings back a lot of experience and leadership,” Brasche said. “This core group of seniors got us through the pandemic season and helped build this back into a strong program. Their determination and loyalty to the program is the foundation this is built upon.
”I think we can have a really strong season if everyone buys into the idea of playing for each other.”
The Vikings have been one of the most successful teams in the area over the past six seasons, and this year should be no different. Northeast has size, speed, talent and experience, and that’s bad news for the rest of the Public League.
Coach Eric Clark is excited about returning quarterback Sabor Stevens, who has a great arm and quick feet. He’ll start in a backfield that also includes running backs James Bermudez and Andre Staley. They’ll be protected by a line that features Naquil Betrand, Tasir Davis, Steve Brison and Hahmir Johnson.
The Vikings should also have a stellar defense, led by linemen Tyrese Whitaker and Ronel Nukah, linebacker Kadir Rowe and defensive backs James Owens, Kashmir Prescott, Rodney Benjamin and Saeem Skinner.
Clark’s goal is always to win the Public League championship, the District 12 title and make it to the state tournament. It’s an ambitious goal, but Northeast has the talent to make it happen.
“The strength of our team is our (offensive line and our defensive line),” Clark said. “We will win games up front on both units. A mix of experienced vets with young talent allows us to have two really good units on both sides of the ball.
“We are returning a starting quarterback for the first time in years, which allows us to progress our offense at a much faster pace. Sabor’s leadership as the signal-caller has shown huge dividends all spring and summer. Defensively we have fast, aggressive and smart players on all three levels. We are excited about our D-line depth. Our linebackers have shown playmaker instincts. Our defensive back unit will be one of the best units in the entire state.”
The Panthers played just four games last year due to the pandemic, but in those four games, Bill Harrigan’s team played hard, winning one.
This year, with some experience and a chance to play a full season, Fels has a chance for a memorable season.
Fels should have a stout defense, led by defensive back Kevin Longmore, who will also see time on offense. On defense, he’ll be joined by linemen Jaquel Young, Marquis McKinney, Kyndel Lewis, Xavier Fevrier, Benson Charles and Rahmel Sommerville. All of these players will also see time on offense.
The Panthers linebackers will be Eric Perry, Walid Daoury and Tymire Jones, and Brandon Porte and Nasir Morris will start in the defensive backfield. Porte is expected to start at quarterback, and Morris will be his top target.
Fels has size and speed to make some noise in the Public League.
“With more size than we are used to having we will be looking to control the line of scrimmage and run the football a bit more frequently,” Harrigan said. “We have a relatively young team that gained a lot of experience last year. The hope is they continue to build continuity as they gain more confidence in their abilities.”