Philadelphia Public League 2022 Season Preview: Independence Division
Tagged under: Conference Previews, District 12, News
Anthony Franklin | August 24, 2022
INDEPENDENCE DIVISION (6)
Simon Gratz 5A
The Public League has 27 teams competing for league championships within 4 classifications. The way the Public League sets its divisions is based on previous season standings with the bottom team the Independence League swapping divisions with the Liberty Division championship team. Same goes for the bottom team in the Liberty Division dropping down to the National Division while the National Division champion moves up to the Liberty Division. The bottom tier division is the American Division where the champion moves up to the National Division and the bottom National Division team drops down to the American League. For the 2022 season Frankford makes the jump up to the Independence conference taking Martin Luther King’s spot who will drop down to the Liberty Division. Lincoln moves up to the 2nd tier division Liberty Division while Roxborough drops down to the National Division.
INDEPENDENCE DIVISION PREVIEW:
The defending champions of the Independence Division Imhotep looks to repeat as champions as they’re led by 3rd year HC Devon Johnson. Last season they went 11-2 with their season ending in the state finals. They lose a great trio in DL Enai White (Texas A&M), DE Keon Wylie (Penn State) and RB Tre McCleod (Cheltenham). They return a strong core of skill position players in Sr. DB Rahmir Stewart, So. RB Jabaree Coleman (Georgia Commit), Jr. DL Jahsear Whittington (Pitt Commit) & Sr. LB Semaj Bridgeman (Michigan Commit). They ran through the Independence division last season undefeated with only one win being less than a 20+ point win which was against Northeast. The Panthers open the season taking on powerhouse Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg) which bodes well for testing out of area competition. Other strong non league games include Archbishop Spalding & Malvern Prep. Look for the Panthers defensive line to be overpowering and a ball control offense to lead them to another double digit win season & strong PIAA playoff run.
Northeast is led by Coach Eric Clark also in his 3rd season at the helm. The Vikings 2021 season was filled with chaos starting with tragic murder of Sr. WR Kyrie. They’d play the season in his honor battle through 2 games cancelled due to other teams COVID breakout & threat of gun violence at the other school. To make things odder they won another game they played until halftime when the opposing team AD alerted them they’d be heading back home due to half the players being ineligible. Despite those adversities they won a 5th consecutive PL 6A title. They lose star LB/DE/OL/FB Ken Talley (Penn State), Keion Wright (transferred to Cheltenham), OT Donovan Saunders (Millersville) & Geo Fabian (Delaware State). Returning are Sr. DL Ronel Nukah (offers from Rhody, Marshall, Penn State, Tennessee & VT), DB Rodney Benjamin, DL/LB Tyrese Whitaker (Temple Commit), Jr. DB Khamri Prescott (offers from PSU, Pitt, BC, Cincinnati, WVU & Colorado) and Sr. LT Naqil Betrand (Texas A&M Commit). The Vikings will rely on a balanced offense & a strong front 7 this season with plans to finally make a run at the state finals. They’re opening the season with a road test at South Jersey top contender Winslow Township.
Frankford shocked the league and city by playing outstanding defense under 1st year coach former Pioneer Damion Brockington finishing the regular season undefeated. They advanced to the PL 5A title game where they were outdueled and manned falling to Imhotep. They’d rebound to finish the season off strong in a Turkey Day win over Cheltenham. While they did lose quite a few players namely QB Anthony Torres (Transferred to Cheltenham), DB Devon Edwards (Eastern Univ), RB/BD Nadir Mitchell (Post University). The offense is led by QB Matt Pellegrino (transfer from Kensington) & Center/DT Sr. David Nguyen. RB/S Nafis Smith comes over from Ben Franklin & should provide a instant spark to the offense. Coach Brockington is a former Pioneer who prides himself on leading a physical team. Despite losing a few top contributors on defense the Pioneers return enough firepower on defense to be instantly competitive and a threat within the division. They’re opening the season with rival George Washington under the lights at Northeast (neutral site) which should provide a great measuring stick for the Pioneers.
John Bartram led by HC Jim Chapman last season won the PL 4A title in a thrilling matchup with Boys Latin before giving CL member Bonner-Prendergast all it could handle in the City 4A title game before falling. The Braves will be looking to retool after the graduation of WR Abdul Adams, Athlete Titus Kruah (Millersville), & RB Nasir Bolden. They’ll be led by So. WR Anthony Kruah, Jr. RB Jah-mi Hargrove & Sr. Lineman Leonard Herrigan. The Braves have had time to look at the mistakes in the city title game that ultimately cut their PIAA playoff run short and with key offensive weapons like Antony & Jah-mi on the field the offense should be able to provide big plays & defensively they have grunts to stop the run & get constant pressure on opposing QB’s. They will host JP McCaskey to open the season and with their experience & depth if they can win it’ll set the tone for what should be a successful season.
Simon Gratz last season was a fairly young team and went 3-3 while missing 2 games due to threat of violence. They missed out on the post season but return all key players which should make them competitive within the division & in the hunt for a 6A playoff spot. They’re led by HC Erik Zipay while key players returning are Sr. RB Vondell Parson, Sr. CB Sabmier Martin, & RB Marquise Somerville. The Bulldogs will open the season playing a neutral game at local Lincoln University in the inaugural HBCU classic game against rival Mastery Charter. The Bulldogs traditionally are a tough as nails defensive team who look to spread their athletes over the field to score points in bunches. The key will be their offensive and defensive lines being able to dominate at the line of strength.
Olney is led by HC Ronnie Flowers. The Trojans finished last season with a disappointing 3-8 record after having made a run to the 6A championship game in 2019 before falling to NE. The Trojans despite a poor regular season made another championship run to the 6A title game falling once again to NE. The Trojans loss star LB Zahfir McCullough (Long Island University) who was the first player in 30+ years to earn a D1 football scholarship at Olney. Leading the Trojans will be Sr. Athlete Amari Alvin. The Trojans will open the season on the road at Spring-Ford. They are short on depth & will probably struggle to keep up with Tep, NE & Frankford. If they can gel & limit mistakes they should be competitive in their other league games.
Overview: Look for the division title to come down to the showdown once again between Imhotep & Northeast. The Panthers have won the last two showdowns. Scouts will be out in high numbers for this game as it will be for bragging rights as well as the winner taking the overall Public League title. Frankford will be attempting to play spoiler when they play both teams while Bartram, Gratz & Olney will all battle for positions 4th through 6th. Frankford and Tep are both 5A teams so there is a great chance they’ll meet again in the Public League 5A championship game. Olney & Simon Gratz are both 6A teams and could very well play NE twice this season. Bartram is 4A and will be a favorite to return to the city title game after facing tough division foes. Interesting fact within this division is both NE and Frankford Head Coaches played for their programs. Coach Brockington was a star LB at Frankford while Coach Clark was a star DB/Returner at Northeast before heading to Towson University.
Top 10 players regardless of position in the division:
- S Rahmir Stewart (Imhotep)
- OT Naquil Betrand (NE)
- DT Jahsear Whittington (Imhotep)
- LB Semaj Bridgeman (Imhotep)
- OLB Tyrese Whitaker (NE)
- RB Jabaree Coleman (Imhotep)
- DE Ronel Nukah (NE)
- C David Nyguen (Frankford)
- WR Nafis Smith (Frankford)
- WR Anthony Kruah) Bartram
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