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October 08, 2021

PhillyVoice High School Football Top 10: Here comes Chester

High School Football Rankings
Chester-Helmet-PV-Top-10_100821_JS Joe Santoliquito/for PhillyVoice

Chester is looking to pick up its first district playoff win in school history this year.

There are some schools earmarked as “football schools,” like St. Joe’s Prep, and some labeled “basketball schools,” like traditional Southeastern Pennsylvania perennial state contender Chester.

Those labels won’t change anytime soon, but Chester football coach LaDontay Bell has created a winning culture at Chester. Guess who is the No. 1 ranked Class 5A team in District 1—and only undefeated program—Chester.

The Clippers are 6-0. Under Bell, the Clippers have gone 2-8 (2016), 2-8 (2017) and 3-7 (2018), before going 7-3 in 2019 and 5-1 in COVID-19 restricted 2020. Under Bell, the program is heading in a positive direction.

Chester, who hasn't cracked the PhillyVoice Top 10 yet but is rising through the ranks of teams in consideration each week, has never reached the district playoffs in football in its history—so it’s never obviously won a district playoff game in program history.

That looks like it will be changing this year.

"Our focus is to get to the playoffs, and we’re making sure our players remain focused and safe with COVID still going on," Bell said. "Our guys are very aware of the football history at Chester. We have a phenomenal opportunity to make history. Obviously, everyone knows Chester’s basketball history. We want to move towards Chester being competitive in all sports.

"One sport at a time."

Senior quarterback Isaiah Freeman led Cheseter to a comeback victory over Interboro and the Clippers are doing this without their best player, 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior linebacker and safety Darron Miller, who’s receiving interest from Rutgers, Temple and Syracuse, and has been sidelined the last few weeks with an injury.

Miller is expected back when the Clippers host Penn Wood this Saturday at 11 a.m.

Major Holy Spirit-St. Augustine showdown postponed for Oct. 29 due to COVID

Last weekend, Southeastern Pennsylvania had its mega-clash before 10,000 at Penn’s historic Franklin Field between powerhouses La Salle and St. Joe’s Prep, and it looked like the South Jersey version was coming this weekend, when Holy Spirit (3-2, 3-1 WJFL Memorial) and St. Augustine Prep (5-1, 5-0 WJFL American) were supposed to play Friday at 6 p.m.

The game has since been postponed due to COVID and will instead be played Friday, Oct. 29, also at 6 p.m.

If the game wasn’t postponed, Holy Spirit may have needed it more than the Hermits.

The Spartans were the dominant team in South Jersey last year, going 8-0 during the COVID-truncated season and carried a 12-game winning streak into this season. Holy Spirit, which was PhillyVoice’s top-ranked team in South Jersey going into last weekend, was upset by undefeated Cedar Creek, 7-6, behind a stout defense and Cedar Creek senior Ja’Quan Howard’s 12 tackles and 86 yards rushing.

Holy Spirit had not lost to an in-state opponent since the Spartans dropped a 22-19 decision to St. Joseph’s (Hammonton) on November 2, 2019. Until then, the Spartans were 15-0 against New Jersey teams. They were playing with backup quarterback Sean Burns, who had replaced injured starter Trevor Cohen, and they do have very talented players, like receiver Elijah Steward and senior defensive lineman Will Marable, a transfer from Cedar Creek who became eligible for the first time this season making two sacks against his old team last weekend.

St. Augustine has been led this season by 6-foot, 203-pound running back Kanye Udoh, who is getting looks by Boston College, Maryland and Delaware, among others. Udoh blasted through Lenape last weekend in the Hermits’ 36-0 victory for 122 yards rushing and a pair of TDs. St. Augustine plowed for 283 yards rushing in their victory over Lenape.

The teams are 2-2 in their last four meetings, with Holy Spirit winning the last confrontation, 12-7, on Nov. 6, 2020.

Let’s hope we get to see this showdown later this month.

The PhillyVoice Area Top 10

Week of Oct. 8, 2021

1. La Salle (6-0)

2. St. Joseph’s Prep (2-2)

3. Imhotep Charter (4-1)

4. Malvern Prep (3-1)

5. North Penn (6-0)

6. St. Augustine Prep (NJ) (5-1)

7. Cedar Creek (NJ) (6-0)

8. Archbishop Wood (4-2)

9. Garnet Valley (6-0)

10. Holy Spirit (NJ) (3-2)

Under consideration: Quakertown (6-0), Millville (NJ) (3-1), Downingtown East (5-1), Neumann-Goretti (4-1), Northeast (1-2), Woodbury (NJ) (5-0), St. Joseph (NJ) (4-2), Ocean City (NJ) (6-0), Winslow (NJ) (5-1), Ridley (5-1), Coatesville (5-1).

The PhillyVoice Southeastern PA Top 10

Week of Oct. 8, 2021

1. La Salle (6-0)

2. St. Joseph’s Prep (2-2)

3. Imhotep Charter (4-1)

4. Malvern Prep (3-1)

5. North Penn (6-0)

6. Archbishop Wood (4-2)

7. Garnet Valley (6-0)

8. Coatesville (5-1)

9. Neumann-Goretti (4-1)

10. Quakertown (6-0)

Under consideration: Downingtown East (5-1), Northeast (1-2), Ridley (5-1), Central Bucks East (5-1), Owen J. Roberts (5-1), Conestoga (5-1), Central Bucks West (5-1), Chester (6-0), Bishop Shanahan (5-1).

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has been writing for PhillyVoice since its inception in 2015 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here: @JSantoliquito.