Imani razzles and dazzles their way to a surprising 4-1 start

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The Imani Christian Academy Saints have only been playing football for 2 years, and this is their first season in the WPIAL. The small East Hills High School wasn’t expected to win much this season, because of inexperience and low enrollment numbers—Imani has only 250 students in grades 1-12—many smaller Class A schools find themselves struggling to find enough bodies to fill the roster.

Khari-Hicks
KHARI HICKS, Imani Christian quarterback, threw 5 touchdown passes to lead the Saints to a 40-17 win over Carlynton.

But after losing their first game against Bishop Canevin the Saints went on a four game winning streak and are the quickest rising team in the WPIAL and a threat to win the title in years to come.

“We are the Marines. We are the few, we are the Proud,” said Head coach Harvey Smith, Jr. “I have 25 quality football players and if we lose any of them I’m in trouble. Our skill positions are as good as anybody’s. I have 4 returning receivers from last year and my quarterback threw for over 2,000 yards in 7 games last year.”

Members of the Youngstown State University football staff watched from the sideline Friday night as No. 8 Imani Saints (4-1) defeated host Carlynton Cougars (1-4) 40-17.

“Youngstown was here to see our receiver Brendan Edwards and a few other players,” said Smith. “We have so many gifted receivers.”

Edwards displayed his Division I speed when he blew past Cougars defenders on a skinny post for a 27 yard touchdown to put the Saints up 13-0.

The Cougars cut the lead to 13-7 when quarterback “Fast” Freddie McKissick scored from 6 yards out.

Edwards is a playmaker with a great sense of timing, and delivers in the clutch. He held onto an 8 yard laser from quarterback Khari Hicks to extend the lead to 20-7.

Edwards third touchdown of the first half—which featured him lulling Carlynton’s secondary to sleep before darting to an unprotected area to make the 59 yard touchdown catch—extending Imani’s lead to 33-7 less than a minute before halftime.

If it seemed like Khari Hicks knew exactly what the Cougars were doing during the game Friday, he most likely did—his tireless film study showed.

“Hicks knows how to throw and understands my offense inside and out. He’s extremely smart young man who has a 3.8 grade point average. He is number 2 in his class,” said Smith. “It is easy to give him an extensive load because he understands what I’m giving him. He is being recruited by Ivy league schools.”

Hicks for 309 yards and 5 touchdowns and his play is reminiscent of the backyard rival star of West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Hicks takes risks, scrambling and slipping defenders, often turning nothing into something.

Edwards caught 10 passes for 153 yards and 3 touchdowns and Eric Scott had 6 catches for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns. Running back Ron Brown put the first points on the board when he bulldozed into the endzone from the 4 yard line.

Clairton High School is currently on a 50-plus game winning streak and Imani ends the season against the Bears.

The Saints didn’t simply enter the WPIAL for a participation medal—their sights are set on winning it all.

“Our kids are not intimidated by Clairton,” said Smith. “Because many of them played against the Clairton kids in midget football and did well.”

It is not far-fetched to believe that this first year team can create havoc and upset Clairton. Because when prayers go up; blessings come down on the Saints.

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