WHITEMARSH >> As the Academy Park Knights stormed the field to celebrate their second district title in three years, only one dude was calm.
The smile on Jawan Collins’ face was wide, but his demeanor was level. Academy Park’s 26-14 victory over Upper Moreland in the Class AAA District One championship Friday was complete. A berth in the state quarterfinals was secured. The Knights, now 13-0, will play the winner of Archbishop Wood/Imhotep Charter next week, back at Plymouth-Whitemarsh.
None of that seemed to matter to Collins. All he cared about was his teammates. His 188 rushing yards, three second
half touchdowns and game-clinching interception were irrelevant.
“I’m happy we won, but I’m not going to show it right now,” Collins said. “I am excited, I can’t think right now. I’m just happy to see them happy, that’s all. Everybody happy, that’s what I like to see. I just like to make everyone else happy.”
Collins has a knack for doing that. Playing quarterback for just a second week, and with his team down 14-6 at halftime, the senior took over. He had a seven-yard touchdown run on the opening possession of the half to even the game. Four minutes later, he broke a 53-yard run to give Academy Park the lead.
After an Upper Moreland punt, Collins went 57 yards for some key insurance. All three touchdown runs came on third down. All three left the Bears in the dust.
“He’s a special player,” Academy Park coach Jason Vosheski said. “He’s a special, special, special player. When he has the ball in his hands, anything can happen.”
His teammates were left speechless, but not surprised. They know what he can do.
“Oh my god,” linebacker Terrel Lee said. “He’s just an all around athlete, you put him anywhere — he’ll play.”
For the last two weeks, that’s been behind center. The offense has exploded with it. Last week, it was 39 points in a rout of Great Valley. Friday, it was a dominating second half from Collins.
Ninety-six minutes into his quarterbacking career, he’s already learned how to delegate praise.
“That’s all No. 1 (DeAndray Covert) on this sideline, all No. 1,” Collins said. “And my offensive line, they set me up all the time. They got a lot of confidence in me, we just always (play) together.”
Specifically, on the two long touchdown runs, Collins gave the credit to his backfield mate, Jermaine Wesley. He had 65 yards and the Knights’ first half score. Upper Moreland had to pay attention to him, which left space for Collins to create.
“I’m always following Three (Wesley), wherever Three leads me, that’s where I’m going to go,” Collins said.
On this night, the path led to another district championship. The title secured in 2013, the program’s first, was the special one. That one proved the Knights were among the area’s elite.
To Vosheski, the celebration and credit belonged to his players. Mainly, they were freshmen and sophomores
spectators in 2013. This one is theirs.
“It means a lot,” Vosheski said. “It means a lot for the kids, the kids worked so hard. To see everything come together, it’s more happiness for them than it is for us.”
Lee, whose second half interception set up the first of Collins’ two long touchdown runs, was posing for pictures with family long after the bulk of his teammates had left the field.
The victory, still “unreal” to him, was one to savor. The first half defensive performance was not. There, the county’s top unit yielded up two, long, clock-eating scoring drives that gave Upper Moreland (10-3) a surprising lead.
In the second half, the real Knights showed up.
“We knew what we had to do,” Lee explained. “Play our game.”
A first half play disparity of 37-to-14 — it was actually 27-to-two at one point — was rendered meaningless in the second half. Upper Moreland put up some yards, but it did not score. It did not even come within 15 yards of the end zone. Collins’ interception stopped that drive.
In all, the Bears had 315 yards of total offense. Tailback Rodney Morgan had 177 of those, plus a score. Quarterback Casey Decker rushed for 33 yards, a touchdown, and threw for 102. But, the 14 stayed on the scoreboard.
“We were a little worried on our side,” Vosheski said. “That’s the MO, if you can take up time and score, it puts a lot pressure on us. But the defense came back strong, they played their (game).”
When the clock hit zero, the Knights celebrated. They sprayed Vosheski with water. The celebration made its way too closely to the Upper Moreland sideline, which led to an exchange of words. The teams ultimately decided not to exchange handshakes, as to avoid any possible incident.
That could not mar what transpired on the field. The Knights, still perfect, are on top of District One again.
“It means a lot,” Collins said. “We (are) undefeated this year. That means a lot.”
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