Football Preview: Lee says Vosheski’s message is sinking in at Academy Park

SHARON HILL >> Academy Park captains Anthony Balogh, Terrel Lee and Marion Holmes all have a few things in common.

Sure, they have the same goal of leading the Knights to their third Del Val League championship in four years. And they have dreams of returning to the District One Class AAA final in November and being part of something really special. After all, they were sophomores in 2013, when a senior-laden Knights team defeated Glen Mills at Ridley High School to win the program’s first district title.

But those aspirations of gridiron glory pale in comparison to the Knights’ goal of improved performance in the classroom. Academy Park has been ranked among the worst-performing high schools in Pennsylvania for several years., which charts the statewide academic performance of all high schools in the states, ranked Academy Park 532nd among 578 schools based on testing for the 2013-14 academic year. Those underwhelming results strike a chord with the AP captains.

“It all starts in class. My school is No. 1 in football the last few years, in the Del Val and so on, but we’re at the bottom of the list in the Keystone (tests),” said Lee, a linebacker. “That’s unacceptable. It shouldn’t be that way. Vo (head coach Jason Vosheski) always says we should be disciplined in class, just like on the field.”

That’s a message that Lee, Holmes and Balogh want to get across to the underclassmen, the players who are going to follow their lead on and off the field.

“We should be held to a high standard,” Lee said, “and set an example for the younger guys.”
Academy Park’s tri-captains are embracing their new roles, whether it’s with a textbook or a playbook.

Jawan Collins will play the slot receiver in the Academy Park offense and he appears poised for a breakout senior season. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)
Jawan Collins will play the slot receiver in the Academy Park offense and he appears poised for a breakout senior season. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)

“From taking orders to giving orders, it’s a big step,” said Holmes, a 6-2, 250-pound lineman. “But it’s something we want to do.”

Inexperience won’t be an issue for the Knights. They have 12 returning starters that should put them among the top football programs in Delaware County for a fourth consecutive year. Coming off an 8-3 campaign and a Del Val title, the Knights are built to win now.

Senior running back Jermaine Wesley rushed for 906 yards and six touchdowns last season. Jawan Collins will be the Knights’ starting slot receiver, a senior who is poised to have a breakout season. Jamar Dembry is an athlete who can do damage on both sides of the ball, but Vosheski views him more as a defensive stalwart.

“You don’t really know what you have until you get to the first game,” Vosheski said. “We have a good number of players on both sides with experience, which is key for any team in any sport. As far as depth goes, some positions we have a lot of depth and some positions we’re thin, like every other school around.”

The offensive line ­— headed by Holmes, Nykeal Jalloh (6-3, 330), Dan Kemp (5-10, 240) and Chris Thomas (6-3, 190) ­— figures to be a strong suit.

“We’re trying to improve ourselves every day. There are never any off days on the O-line,” Holmes said.

The quarterback position is among the chief concerns for the Knights heading into the season. Vosheski has a starter in mind ­— “it’s his job to lose,” he said ­— who knows the reads and can make the throws in the Knights’ up tempo, spread attack. Vosheski preferred not to name names before the season got under way. Last year the Knights struggled at times with their aerial attack, something Vosheski hopes to fix in 2015.

“We’re reloaded,” Balogh said. “That’s something that Coach Vo has said.”

Balogh, Lee and Dembry give the Knights a solid core of linebackers. In the early days of camp, Vosheski was still in search of two starting receivers to complement Collins, as well as another starting cornerback. Clarence Buchanan, an All-Delco who tied for the county lead in interceptions (six) last fall, also returns.

“We have a decent amount of skill guys on offense and defense without necessarily having to play two ways,” Vosheski said.

The Knights are the preseason favorite to repeat in the Del Val League, champions until proven otherwise. The players, however, won’t buy in to the hype.

“We never say we’re the same team,” Holmes said. “Yeah, we do have all these starters coming back. But that doesn’t mean we’ll stop improving …”

“The key to success,” Lee added, “is to never be satisfied.”

This story appears in the Delco Times Football Preview, available on newsstands Friday.

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