SHARON HILL >> Following Academy Park’s narrow loss to Penn Wood last week, and considering that its Friday night opponent, rival Interboro, snatched the Del Val League title away from them in 2016, the Knights had plenty of motivation going into the contest with the Bucs.
They responded with a resounding 50-27 victory to end the regular season on a high note.
But motivation alone doesn’t account for 50 points, nor the 458 yards of offense Academy Park put up. It takes talent, precision and, in quarterback Skylar Fillis, fearlessness.
Fillis started his evening with one of those “nice play, kid, don’t do it again” sequences. After the Knights went 44 yards in two plays, Fillis took the snap from the 11-yard line and dropped back. Chased by two Interboro defenders, Fillis kept back-pedaling. As he neared the 30-yard line he scrambled to his right and threw a perfect pass to Jermal Martin at the edge of the end zone … for an 11-yard scoring play.
“I saw two of my receivers, two of my best receivers,” explained Fillis. “So I’m like, we have two people on that side. We’re going to see what happens. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.”
That mantra defined his performance as he produced big play after big play both through the air and on the ground. Fillis finished with 156 yards passing and three touchdowns, 105 yards rushing and two scores. Remarkably, he was a part of just one negative play, a loss of one in the fourth quarter long after the game was effectively over.
“It’s great because we have a lot of weapons,” Fillis said. “I can trust a lot of people on the team. I leave it out there and everyone else does too. Good stuff happens.”
Fillis’ connection to Martin to open the scoring was one of many highlights. His 37-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Dwayne Leslie to make it 21-14 Academy Park was a thing of beauty. The duo combined again to put the game away in the third quarter. From his own 48, Fillis heaved a 50-50 ball that Leslie picked off the cornerback’s head and ran in for a 52-yard score.
“I put my trust in my teammates,” Fillis said. “They trust me, I trust them.”
Fillis was far from the only Knight to contribute. Leslie finished with those 89 yards receiving and running back Nate Holmes rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Each answered a Bucs scoring drive, one in the first quarter, one in the third. On the latter, Holmes looked to be stalled after a solid gain. But his legs kept churning, and soon he was somersaulting into the end zone 71 yards later.
“I just had to score,” Holmes said. “My mindset was score, score, score.”
He wasn’t going to be stopped and neither was Academy Park. And Interboro (5-5, 3-2 Del Val) had no answer.
“They’re very talented,” Bucs coach Steve Lennox said. “Their quarterback’s good. He can run. He can throw.”
Interboro did put a scare into the Knights a few times. Kalie Kayuteh answered Martin’s touchdown grab with an 87-yard kickoff return. He added a touchdown rush in the second quarter. Joe Forte and JD Delipriscolli each had touchdowns as well.
But Academy Park (8-3, 4-1) was ruthless on offense and refused to let the Bucs back in. On one second quarter-drive, Fillis converted a fake punt for a fourth down. Four plays later, on another fourth down, he raced out of the pocket for a 36-yard score. A 55-yarder from Fillis late in the third closed the Knights’ scoring and sent a message to District 1: AP has a dynamic offense to challenge all comers.
“It basically opens up the game,” Fillis said. “Teams are not going to know what to do. If they stop the run, we’re going to pass. If they stop the pass, we’re going to run. It’s hard for defenses to get ready for us.”
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