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Academy Park gets it together in penalty-marred win over Chester

CHESTER >> Academy Park’s Jermal Martin pointed to his left where teammate Bryson Roberts was standing.

“He gets blocks in the back (penalties) a lot,” said Martin, an All-Delco defensive back. “Takes away my punt returns.”

Martin was playfully ribbing Roberts, who could do nothing but nod his head and smile.

“It’s OK,” Martin said. “He just wants to hit people and he plays hard.”

Yes, Academy Park doesn’t shy away from physical contact. Its no-holds-barred approach to defense is what defines the winning culture in Sharon Hill. You can’t argue with three District 1 titles in five years.

But you have to be smart, and the Knights, by their admission, did not play very smart Saturday afternoon in their 43-12 victory over Chester.

The Knights and Clippers combined for 266 yards of penalties. Each team had 15 fouls called against. There were 10 personal fouls, a handful of holdings and a slew of false starts and encroachment calls.

That’s not ideal.

“I think it’s a lack of discipline or maybe they’re being overly aggressive,” said AP coach Jason Vosheski, who was irritated more than normal after his team’s fourth straight win. “We’re just … not disciplined. That’s the thing. I have no other explanation but that.”

Vosheski, who can be critical of PIAA officials from time to time, added, “I don’t think any call against us in the first half was wrong.”

In six games, the Knights (4-2, 2-0) have been penalized 62 times for a total of 479 yards.

“Some of the penalties are uncalled for,” said Martin, who played stellar defense and contributed big time on offense. Martin’s first touch of the game went for a 68-yard touchdown run to tie the game in the first quarter, moments after Chester jumped out to a 6-0 lead.

After an ugly first half, the Knights got their act together in the third quarter, scoring on their third play from scrimmage. Kareem Burton scampered 35 yards to the end zone to give AP a 30-12 advantage.

“They’re a pretty talented team,” Vosheski said of Chester. “Maybe as a whole we started putting it together. We scored first, and quick, in the second half. I don’t know. We had spurts of it in the first half, but we didn’t follow through. Penalties, fumbles. I can’t imagine how many penalties there were.”

Considering that Chester was missing its leading rusher, senior Devan Freeman, the Clippers did some good things early. On their first possession, the Clippers dialed up a sweep to Andre Cooper, who raced down the home sideline 60 yards for the first touchdown of the game. Lahneir McBride acted as the quarterback, mostly running the ball out of the gun. The fleet-footed senior athlete led the way with 68 rushing yards and a touchdown.

But the Knights pulled away in the second half. Their defense, led by linebacker Azeez Badmus, routinely pressured the Chester ball carriers. Roberts was also a force at defensive back/linebacker.

“We have a lot of confidence,” Roberts said of the defensive unit, which limited Chester to 135 yards of total offense.

In the third quarter, Chester faced a fourth down and 63 yards. The sequence went as follows: Personal foul (1st-and-25), minus-three-yard run and a personal foul (2nd-and-43), encroachment penalty (2nd-and-38), fumbled snap and minus-19-yard run (3rd-and-57), minus-six-yard run (4th-and-63). The Clippers (2-4, 0-2) fumbled the ball 12 times, losing two of them. The Knights (seven fumbles, two lost) weren’t much better.

AP sealed the win when Barry Brown hauled in a 35-yard touchdown pass from Skylor Fillis with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

Burton paced the AP ground attack with 109 yards on eight carries. Martin added 75 yards on three touches, while Nate Holmes, who scored three TDs in the win over Chichester last week, finished with 65 yards on 11 carries.

In a sign of solidarity, Chester and Academy Park players lined up to shake hands before the game. Should that be a new tradition?

“I like that,” Martin said. “Yeah, we should do that more.”

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