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Gleplay, Penn Wood hit the ground, run to Del Val title

Penn Wood hoists the Del Val League tropjy following a 40-20 win over Academy Park Friday night. (PETE BANNAN/DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA)
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SHARON HILL — One of Delaware County football’s best-kept secrets was revealed Friday night.

Penn Wood’s little-known ground attack unleashed fury on Academy Park’s defense.

Rain or no rain, the Patriots stayed commited to running the football from the outset, accruing 371 yards on 40 carries. Academy Park struggled to find a solution.

Junior quarterback Desman Johnson was pretty unstoppable. He racked up 175 yards rushing and four touchdowns, senior running back Elijah Gleplay was close behind with 167 yards and a score. Even backup Michael Dargan added 39 yards on six carries.

Elijah Gleplay ran for 167 yards to help Penn Wood capture its second straight Del Val League title with a 40-20 rout of Academy Park (PETE BANNAN/DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA)

Penn Wood rolled to a 40-20 victory, completing an undefeated run in the Del Val League and a second straight title. The Patriots are expected to earn the No. 1 seed in the District 1 Class 5A tournament, which gets under way next week.

“We just wanted to do what they didn’t expect,” said Johnson, who completed 11 of 19 passing attempts for 158 yards. “They expected us to go deep ball, deep ball and their DBs were playing off at the line.

Pointing to Gleplay, Johnson said, “We got him. I guess they didn’t realize that.”

Johnson set the tone for the night. On the second play from scrimmage, he took a QB draw and raced down the AP sideline 85 yards to paydirt. After AP went three-and-out on its first possession, the Patriots (9-1, 5-0) methodically drove the field and scored again. They converted three first downs and Johnson hooked up with All-Delco wideout Kennedy Poles on a 26-yard reception to set up his second TD run of the first quarter.

And then it was Gleplay’s turn. The diminutive senior (5-8, 165) hasn’t had the opportunity to showcase his talents due to Penn Wood’s penchant for throwing the football. When you’re on a team that features the leading passer and No. 1 receiver in the county, teams will tend to overlook the running game. Johnson upped his yardage total to 2,207 and Poles eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year.

That is not a problem for Gleplay, who entered the night averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Gleplay took a handoff out of the shotgun in the second quarter, hit the hole and sprinted 85 yards untouched to the end zone.

“I was looking for a crease,” Gleplay said. “It was a good game plan. I didn’t expect to get the ball that much, but we did it what he had to do and came out with the Del Val championship.”

This was also a bit of a statement game for the Penn Wood offensive line, which often goes unnoticed.

“Teams think our line stinks, our line is soft, things like that,” Penn Wood coach Ato Troop said. “But we pass the ball a lot more than any other team.

Junior quarterback Desman Johnson holds up the Del Val League championship trophy after defeating Academy Park.

If Elijah Gleplay ran the ball as much as the other top guys in Delco, he would be a top rusher. We just don’t give him the ball that much.”

Friday was a second chance to give Gleplay a little more responsibility.

“The way AP’s defense plays … they can be aggressive, and when they do that, we believe we could run the ball inside,” Troop said. “We schemed it pretty well.”

Before Friday the Patriots’ highest rushing total in a game this season was 200 yards in a 42-10 win over Souderton way back in Week 1.

“I’ve been pushing (the linemen) all week in practice,” tackle Keivon Stevens said. “We had to do what we had to do tonight. We just kept working hard.”

Gleplay’s scoring scamper came on the heels of AP’s first TD, a 16-yard run by Darren Gibli. The Knights (8-2, 4-1) struck again in the second quarter, pulling within seven points following a nine-play drive capped off by quarterback Skylor Fillis’ one-yard sneak. Penn Wood lost a fumble on its next possession, but AP was unable to capitalize with a short field.

The Patriots then drove 70 yards in five plays with less than two minutes to go before the break to extend its advantage again to two touchdowns. Brian Parker Jr. made a key 14-yard catch, then the 6-2, 250-pound Johnson steamrolled his way to a 13-yard touchdown with 34 seconds to go.

Penn Wood receiver Kennedy Poles had 95 yards on six catches for in the victory.

The Knights self-destructed on their first drive of the third quarter. Trailing 28-13, an encouraging drive ended on a fumble that was recovered by the Patriots in the end zone.

The fourth quarter was action-packed. Dargan’s 13-yard run increased Penn Wood’s lead to 34-13, then Fillis connected on two 30-yard passes to Alphonso Hayes and Jarrick Wilcox, the latter went for a touchdown. Johnson sealed the win for Penn Wood with his fourth rushing score of the night.

Penn Wood outgained AP on offense, 529-279. Fillis ran for a team-high 62 yards and went 7-for-17 through the air with 116 yards and a pick.

“Quite honestly, they played better than us and they deserved everything they got on offense, defense, special teams,” AP coach Jason Vosheski said. “We had a chance, we started to come back, but we made too many mistakes.”

Poles finished with five catches for 95 yards, upping his career total to 2,838 yards. That leaves the All-Delco only 13 yards from tying the Delco career record of 2,851 yards set by Sun Valley’s Ray Withelder in 1999.

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