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The Panthers

Photography by Kylie Cooper | Reporting by Alejandro Danois

St. Frances Academy football series - The Baltimore Banner

     Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

St. Frances Academy doesn't have a football field. They don't have blocking sleds or tackling dummies. They're forced to practice at whichever local parks and recreation centers are available.

But the St. Frances Academy Panthers are one of the best high school football teams in the country.

Located in East Baltimore, St. Frances Academy is the oldest continually running Black Catholic school in the country. Schools in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference have refused to play the Panthers since 2018, citing unbalanced talent level and safety concerns for their players. Since then, St. Frances has been facing teams nationally.

Last season, the Panthers ranked No. 2 in the country before losing their final game. Over the previous two seasons, they lost only two games overall.


With a younger team and multiple starting seniors injured this year, the Panthers knew heading into this season that they would be challenged. They ended the season 5-6, but for Head Coach Messay Hailemariam, what mattered most was that the team put in their all and enjoyed each game.

I worked with sports reporter Ali Danois on this series from August to November 2023, the length of the team's home season.