OPINION: The competition question

Should neighborhood public schools play private schools that recruit players?


Aidan McLean, Contributor

On November 26, 2021, Strath Haven High School’s football team made history yet again. On a bone-chilling night during a tense overtime at West Chester Rustin High School, quarterback Sam Milligan dove into the end zone for a two-point conversion, securing a district title for the Panthers, their twelfth in school history. “I can smell the chocolate!” announced one of radio broadcaster’s Brian Carroll’s assistants, hoping the Panthers would advance to the state title game. 

Unfortunately, their next game would prove to be the end of a great run. The mighty Panthers of Strath Haven were up against the mightier Panthers of Imhotep Charter, and our team was shut out 36-0 in front of a sold-out Ridley High School.

It is unfair for public, neighborhood schools like Strath Haven or Garnet Valley to play against public or private, tuition-based, recruitable schools like Imhotep and St. Joe’s Prep.”

Imhotep Institute Charter High School is located in North Philadelphia, and it is a public school independent of the School District of Philadelphia. They have students from all over the place, not just Philly. In fact, they have recruited football players from up to six counties. 

The team is notorious for sending students to college football powerhouses. In fact, more than 50% of the team have signed to a Division 1 school. One of those players is Enai White. A new commit to Texas A&M, he was consistently ranked a five-star football player and one of the best defensive players in the nation. He was recruited from Pennington, New Jersey. Imhotep has also produced four NFL players in the last decade. 

Another Central League member who accounted for Haven’s only other loss, Garnet Valley, was beaten handily by Saint Joseph’s Prep, a private, tuition-based school, the same day Strath Haven was knocked out of the playoffs. Garnet Valley was undefeated at the time, and having won their 6A district title by a landslide, they were favored to win against Saint Joe’s Prep. Saint Joe’s Prep had three graduates drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft alone, and like Imhotep, had a very strong showing of college recruits. Saint Joe’s Prep has played games across the country against national high school football powerhouses and even some small college teams. 

As a member of Pennsylvania’s largest marching band and a huge fan of the sport, I have attended all but one Panther football game this season. I can confidently say that it is unfair for public, neighborhood schools like Strath Haven or Garnet Valley to play against public or private, tuition-based, recruitable schools like Imhotep and St. Joe’s Prep. It strongly takes away the entertainment and competitiveness of playing neighboring schools and puts schools like Strath Haven at an unfair disadvantage. 

In 2000, when the Panthers won their second straight state title, they had a similar roster (better, though, as it included more NFL-bound players) but solely played against public, neighborhood schools. Before defeating West Allegheny for the state crown in a strong fight, we breezed past Berwick and Manheim Central. There will be times where we play public schools like Garnet Valley and lose, but that is just football. It’s still more entertaining, and fair, if private schools compete in their own league. It would be better for public schools like Strath Haven if state playoffs were more like the way it was back in 2000— public versus public.