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Martin’s return signals Academy Park’s rise over Glen Mills


BOX SCORE


THORNBURY >> Academy Park isn’t too comfortable being behind on the scoreboard, a rare affliction over the last couple of years.

So when Jermal Martin saw his Knights down in the first quarter Friday — albeit by a single point after touchdown — he resolved to eradicate the deficit quickly.

The defensive back answered a Glen Mills score with an 85-yard kickoff return straight up the gut of the Bulls’ coverage, helping Academy Park reverse course and roll to a 42-15 Del Val League win.

Academy Park’s Dazhon Miller is dragged down by Glen Mills’ Samuel Ongwae in the first quarter of the visiting Knights’ 42-15 victory over the Bulls. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Academy Park’s Dazhon Miller is dragged down by Glen Mills’ Samuel Ongwae in the first quarter of the visiting Knights’ 42-15 victory over the Bulls. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“I sensed that once they scored, I knew I had to step up and be a leader on the team,” Martin said. “If they kicked me the ball, I knew what I had to do. I saw the opening and I broke through, and I knew nobody was going to catch me the way my speed is.”

Thanks to Martin, the Knights (7-0, 2-0) trailed for all of 12 seconds. His was the first of four straight scores that put the game to bed after three quarters, demonstrating the big-play potential that makes bottling up the Knights near impossible.

Their five offensive touchdowns came on series that averaged a mere four plays each. Dazhon Miller rushed for touchdowns of 26, 42 and seven yards, finishing with 137 yards on just 13 totes. Taylor Moors threw for the other two touchdowns, hitting Demetrius Perkins for 35 in the first quarter and Teddy Wright on a nine-yard wheel route in the second.

The cushion afforded the Knights offensive balance, Moors going 6-for-13 for 97 yards and AP running for 198, a total only so low thanks to a bad snap late that lost 24 yards and penalties limiting Kareem Burton’s bombing end-arounds to just 53 yards on two tries.

PHOTO GALLERY: Academy Park vs. Glen Mills

The combination of short fields fostered by a swarming defense and the ability to gain yards in chunks makes the Knights impeccably difficult to stop.

“It’s big because we already had the edge coming into the game coming back as district champions,” Miller said. “We’ve got the edge already, so when we score … they put their heads down.”

And when the Knights score as easily as they do, it backs opponents like Glen Mills (3-4, 0-2) into play-calling corners in which they’d rather not be. Top running back Keon Rantin, for instance, was limited to six carries for 22 yards as quarterback James Timmons hoisted up 25 passes, 12 in the direction of tight end James Walker.

“I was open,” said the 6-3, 210-pound Walker, who caught seven balls for 53 yards. “I was doing what I had to do. My o-line was blocking for me and everything was set. He threw the ball nice, got it to me and I made my plays.”

Timmons was moderately successful, hitting Walker for a 12-yard score in the first quarter (preceding Martin’s kick-return TD) and Justin Gray for a four-yard touchdown in the fourth. But his 27 dropbacks yielded a scant 90 yards though the air, only one completion longer than a dozen yards (a 26-yarder to Roberto Falu) and a pair of drive-killing sacks by Amara Kenneth and Azeez Badmus. Martin also picked Timmons off in the fourth quarter to officially salt away the win.

AP’s lead allowed its defense to tee off on what they knew to be passing downs, with the likes of Martin from the safety position and Kenneth from the line.

Glen Mills' Keon Rantin tries to get around Academy Park's Bryson Roberts Friday in the Knights' 42-15 win. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Glen Mills’ Keon Rantin tries to get around Academy Park’s Bryson Roberts Friday in the Knights’ 42-15 win. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“When they helped me out, I knew I was good to go,” Martin said of Badmus and Teddy Wright, the linebackers patrolling the middle of the field in their Cover-3 scheme. “So if they caught the pass, I knew all I had to do was make the big hit.”

“On defense, if we see them passing, as the D-linemen, we just have to get back there and help our linebackers out and pressure the quarterback as much as we can,” Kenneth said. “We set (the linebackers) up for greatness.”

Kenneth and company set each other up to succeed in a bevy of departments, some of which go underappreciated but can sum to banners come playoff time. Cyle Martin jumped on a Timmons fumble in the first quarter, giving the Knights a short field at the 34 ahead of Miller’s first scoring burst. Kenneth kicked a pair of touchbacks, helping the Knights control field position along with Wright’s punting and his and Martin’s returns.

It’s the little things that compound into big gains over time.

“Kickoff and punt return, we set our defense up for good things,” said Kenneth, an Interboro transfer. “On the kickoff when I have a touchback, we’re good. We got off the field fast enough. Even when I make a mistake and kick the ball out of bounds, I know my defense is going to hold it down.”

The objective for Academy Park has been to build up its quality of performance each game, peaking as the postseason arrives. Even for a team outscoring opponents at a 233-54 clip through seven weeks, the complete, four-quarter effort has remained elusive.

Friday wasn’t it either, Kenneth said. But it’s getting closer.

“I wouldn’t say we’re there yet, but we’re working our way up there,” he said. “We don’t want to be settling with anything. We want to keep working to get better every game to be the best defense we can be.”

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