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Under Great pressure, Academy Park responds with a winning attitude

SHARON HILL >> Call it superstition, but losing streaks are often better left unspoken about … unless you’re Jason Vosheski.

By design, and almost repeatedly, the Academy Park coach discussed the Knights’ winless start to their season throughout their recent week of practice. A few players said he harped about it in the weight room more than anywhere else.

“More than anything, he wanted us to come out with the attitude of being 0-2 and to play with pressure on our shoulders,” said senior wide receiver Jermal Martin. “Our backs were against the wall, and we showed we can handle the pressure.”

Great Valley quarterback Jake Prevost is sacked by Academy Park’s Azeez Badmus in the first half Friday night at Knight Park. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Finally, Academy Park broke into the winning column with a 43-20 nonleague victory over Great Valley at Knight Park.

The reigning District 1 5A champions accumulated 503 yards of offense, including 416 on the ground. Kareem Burton led the way with 226 yards rushing on only 17 carries.

Just like that, the Knights (1-2) resembled their confident, winning selves.

“We know we’re the most dangerous team in the district,” said Martin, who had two touchdowns. “When we get on point, we’ll stay on point.”

Great Valley (1-2) couldn’t manage to slow down Academy Park’s high-powered offense, which started strong and never let up. Quarterback Skylor Fillis connected with receiver Dwayne Leslie for a 57-yard touchdown on the Knights’ second play of the game. Martin added an 18-yard rushing score on a reverse just prior to halftime to put the Knights in front, 14-0.

Only once more did the Patriots manage to keep the gap to a two-possession margin.

“I’ll give them all the credit in the world, and take nothing away from them, but we didn’t tackle well at all,” Great Valley coach Dan Ellis said. “We had guys stopped for a loss on numerous times and we didn’t tackle them. We let them get away and gain yards.”

That was most evident on one of Burton’s third-quarter carries.

The senior running back, out of the I-formation, took a handoff from Fillis and went left. Then right. Then left. Then Burton spun right. He estimated that he changed direction about a dozen times, before getting tackled by a Great Valley safety 53 yards downfield. That long run set up a 2-yard touchdown lunge by Nathaniel Holmes to give Academy Park a 30-6 lead.

“When you reach on him, it’s like a crossover,” said Martin. “You can’t stop him by reaching. You’ve got to get in front of him, and then wrap up.”

Martin should know. Wednesday, he was tasked with having to tackle Burton in Academy Park’s practice.

“People tell me all the time, ‘Kareem, trust your speed and your power. You’re 190 pounds,’” said Burton, who averaged 13.3 yards per carry against Great Valley. “So after tonight, I’m done with the dancing. I’m hitting the hole now and I’m gone.”

But if he ever has to elude a defender…

“Trust me,” Burton said, laughing. “When I have to rely on the dancing, it’s there.”

Great Valley attempted to close the gap in the second half. The Patriots scored on three consecutive series, bridging the third and fourth quarters.

A 73-yard catch-and-run connection between receiver Josh Burgess and quarterback Jake Prevost proved to be the highlight of the half for the Patriots.

It wasn’t enough to prevent Academy Park from winning for the first time this season.

“We got our mojo back,” Martin said.

“Last week, we didn’t finish the game strong and it cost us,” said Burton. “This week, we knew we had to.”

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