SHARON HILL >> Teddy Wright hung his head after he shanked a 14-yard punt with a little over two minutes left in Academy Park’s 14-7 triumph over Springfield in the quarterfinal round of the District One Class AAA playoffs Friday night.
It wasn’t the wind that knocked Wright’s punt down. It was his fault and he owned up to it.
“I was thinking too much and it just kind of sailed on me,” Wright said.
The junior, though, did not stay down long. He could not afford it.
The errant punt gave the eighth-seeded Cougars one more chance to tie the game and Wright, a safety, had to clear his head and go on defense. All the while, he kept thinking that he had to make up for his mistake.
His chance would come eight plays later.
With the Cougars at the Academy Park 32-yard line and time winding down, Wright stepped in front of Johnny Fanelli’s fourth-down pass attempt to Kyle Long for his second interception of the night to seal Springfield’s fate with 1:12 to play and the Cougars out of timeouts. All top-seeded Academy Park (11-0) had to do was kneel down once to secure a home date next week in the semifinals against fourth-seeded Great Valley, a 17-8 winner over fifth-seeded Interboro.
Wright had a pretty good idea who the primary receiver would be on that fourth-and-10 with the game on the line.
“Yeah, the coaches were yelling to watch out for 31 (Long),” Wright said. “I knew he likes to run a skinny post in that situation and I knew that if I could just get in front of him I could catch it.”
Academy Park needed Wright’s second pick, which capped another outstanding effort by the defense, because the Cougars just would not go away.
“That’s not your typical eight seed,” Academy Park coach Jason Vosheski said. “They’re a good team. They were in the district final last year.”
Springfield dropped a 21-0 decision to Great Valley in the Class AAA district final a year ago and used its experience, and its defense, to make Academy Park sweat it out.
The Knights jumped out to a 14-0 lead thanks to the speed of senior DeAndray Covert and a pair of trick plays. Facing a second-and-19 at the Knights’ 11-yard line, Covert pulled in a pass from quarterback Taylor Moors and raced 89 yards to break a scoreless deadlock.
“I knew that play was coming before the game,” Covert said. “(Moors) told me we were going to run it. It’s just a little seam route. The defense concentrated on Jawan Collins and that freed me up. All I had to do was get open, catch it and run.”
Covert did his part, with the help of a big downfield block by wide receiver Shymere Stroud, which turned Covert loose and set up trick play No. 1. Academy Park faked the PAT kick and Collins, the holder, found Togba Porte in the middle of the end zone for an 8-0 AP lead.
Trick play No. 2 came early in the second quarter and again involved Covert. Faced with a fourth-and-eight from the Springfield 45-yard line Academy Park lined up to punt but had no intention of kicking the football. Instead, Academy Park snapped the ball to Covert, who raced into the end zone to give the Knights a 14-0 edge with 7:56 to play in the first half.
It was the first time AP ran a fake punt, according to Covert.
“We practice it a lot, but we never ran it in a game before,” Covert said. “All I had to do was follow Togba Porte. He threw a great block that got me into the open.”
The two-touchdown lead gave Academy Park fans reason to smile, but not Vosheski. He knew the Cougars were capable of making a comeback, especially with the Knights in a giving mood. AP turned the ball over three times inside of its 30-yard line.
Springfield took advantage of the second fumble to get on the board when Fanelli found Long for a 15-yard score with 5:15 to play in the third quarter. Academy Park turned the ball over on the ensuing kickoff. Joe Kennedy recovered a fumble at the Academy Park 20-yard line, but the Cougars could not capitalize on it.
“They tried to give it to us,” Springfield coach Chris Britton said. “We didn’t take it.”
Still, defense kept the Cougars in the game. Springfield stymied Academy Park on its next three possessions, including a goal-line stand with less than eight minutes to play that prevented the Knights from going back up by two scores.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Britton said. “We had a few drops at inopportune times and we made some other mistakes, but our defense did play well.”
Academy Park’s defense came up big, too, especially Wright, who did not allow an errant punt make him lose focus with the game on the line.
“I knew I had to do something to make up for that punt,” Wright said.
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