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De George: A little trust goes a long way with Collins as Academy Park’s QB

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SHARON HILL >> As he and his teammates milled about the Academy Park field late Friday night, Jawan Collins made his first real mistake of the evening.

“I don’t even play quarterback,” Collins replied to a question about his signal-calling proficiency.

It’s an answer he’ll have to correct moving forward.

Collins was the key cog in what looked like a brilliant move by coach Jason Vosheski in the Knights’ 39-14 win over Great Valley in the District One Class AAA semifinal.

After playing wide receiver for the first 11 games of the season, Jawan Collins -- right, running past Great Valley's Noah Johnson -- took over as the Academy Park quarterback Friday night and directed the Knights to a 39-14 victory to earn a trip to the District One Class AAA title game. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)

After playing wide receiver for the first 11 games of the season, Jawan Collins — right, running past Great Valley’s Noah Johnson — took over as the Academy Park quarterback Friday night and directed the Knights to a 39-14 victory to earn a trip to the District One Class AAA title game. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)

Vosheski can only detect so many faults on this year’s squad, the first in Academy Park history to tally 12 wins in its first 12 outings. But one was a lack of dynamism in an offense that trudged to 21 points combined in the last two weeks. Nothing against Taylor Moors — who only, you know, managed the Knights to those first 11 wins. But in Collins, Vosheski saw the potential for something different, the kind of added dimension that transforms league champions into district champions.

“I think it’s easy because Jawan Collins is offensively our best player,” Vosheski said. “And as a wide receiver, he’s going to touch the ball maybe five or 10 times a game. As a quarterback, he’s going to touch it every play.”

The decision to start Collins was made by Vosheski, who split the reps between him and Moors this week and anticipated a series-by-series approach Friday. But between the lines, the choice was made by Collins, by his legs, his arm, his vision mobilizing the Knights’ explosive array of weapons and unlocking the possibility that Vosheski suspected was lurking.

Collins matched those 21 points in the second quarter alone, the final seven handled personally with a 16-yard score on fourth-and-4 in which Collins was wrapped up around the five and dragged a host of tacklers across the goal line.

In the second half, he took to the air. He hit Kareem Burton on a 48-yard score down the sidelines after the sophomore shook off a tackler. Collins finished it off with a wheel-route score to Jermaine Wesley for 16 yards (on a fourth-and-11, no less), selling the fake and looking off the secondary to allow Wesley to slink to the front pylon unchecked for a rendezvous with a lofted pass.

The level of execution belied the reality that Collins took his first reps under center Tuesday. Or that those were his first quarterback looks of the season, of his high school career, of his organized football life.

In all Collins, was 6-for-9 — two of the incompletions were stone-cold drops — for 142 yards and two scores. He also ran for 114 yards on 15 carries, complementing Wesley’s 137 on 20 totes.

“It looked pretty good,” Wesley said. “I liked it.”

And of Collins’ passing ability?

“Yeah, I was surprised,” Wesley said. “I won’t lie.”

The Great Valley defense echoed that sentiment.

Academy Park's Jermaine Wesley, left, flourished with new quarterback Jawan Collins at the helm, running for 137 yards and two scores, plus a receiving touchdown. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)

Academy Park’s Jermaine Wesley, left, flourished with new quarterback Jawan Collins at the helm, running for 137 yards and two scores, plus a receiving touchdown. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)

“It’s a different approach,” linebacker Zach Tillett said. “We saw them coming out wildcat every play. We didn’t have that in practice too much.”

Beyond the yards and scores, it’s when the damage was inflicted that displayed more of Collins’ intuition for the position. After a potentially-momentum swinging goal-line stand on the Patriots’ first series spearheaded by Teddy Wright, Collins orchestrated an 11-play, 98-yard scoring march capped by Wesley’s 33-yard dash.

He took six plays to match Great Valley’s first score. His hookup with Burton answered Great Valley’s third-quarter-opening score, just 14 seconds after the gap was closed to one-score for the final time. And he added a 90-yard scoring drive.

Deviating from a plan that fostered 11 straight wins requires quite a bit of guts, an appraisal that would have a much different tone had the Knights come up short. But for a team that’s made the district semis four times in five years, high risk could yield high reward.

But the risk was mitigated, since the other prerequisite for such a drastic change, as Vosheski knew, was also present in abundance on the Knights sideline. “My offensive line, everybody was behind me,” Collins said. “Everybody had confidence in me. (Vosheski) had confidence in me, my receivers had confidence in me. Everybody did.”

To contact Matthew De George, email mdegeorge@delcotimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @sportsdoctormd.

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