Wesley, Collins spark Academy Park’s second-half surge

SHARON HILL >> Following his team’s 43-0 nonleague defeat of Cardinal O’Hara at Knight Park Saturday night, Jawan Collins’ postgame take was pretty simple.

“In the first half, we played a C game,” he said. “In the second half, we played an A game.”

Simple, but accurate.

Prior to halftime, some cagey, sloppy and physical play exhibited on both sides went hand-in-hand with a damp, windy and wet night.

Academy Park’s resulting 8-0 lead entering the break — which came from a first-quarter Jawan Collins catch-and-run touchdown from 29 yards out, and later a safety in the second frame — hardly reflected the fact that the undefeated Knights were hosting a Cardinal O’Hara team with one win in four tries this fall. As if that wasn’t enough, the Lions lacked depth due to college visits and the October SAT examinations.

And to their credit, the Lions hung tough for the better part of three quarters against one of the three schools still undefeated in the county.

“We did a great job in the first half,” Lions head coach B.J. Hogan said. “Every game this year, we’ve played great in the first half.”

It took a halftime pep talk to get it going, but once it did, Academy Park’s high-tempo offense and dynamic defense became too much to handle for a worn-out Cardinal O’Hara team, as the Knights amassed 35 points over the game’s final 14 minutes.

“We just had to play AP football,” linebacker Jeremy Dembry said. “We didn’t do that in the first half. We got a serious speech at halftime and it got us going.”

Jermaine Wesley dashed for scores of 2 and 5 yards, respectively, in that span, and led the Knights (5-0) all along on the ground with 80 yards on 19 carries. Collins added another touchdown grab, a 36-yarder, on a nicely thrown Taylor Moors pass, and finished with 64 yards on three receptions.

“We probably moved the ball (Saturday) the best on them than anybody they’ve faced,” Hogan said. “But they have so many athletes that can run and make plays.”

After Wesley’s first touchdown run, which opened the second-half scoring, Togba Porte helped force a fumble and took it back 31 yards to extend the Knights’ lead to a 20-0 advantage.

After Collins and Wesley both made a final impact with their fourth-quarter scores, Corey Simmons capped the scoring with Academy Park’s second defensive touchdown of the frame, a 35-yard fumble return.

What was already a chippy contest got testy from there with some late-game pushing, shoving and mild fisticuffs.

“It was just an emotional game,” Collins said. “It was a lot of talk, you know. It was just very emotional.”

Overall, the Knights outgained the Lions (1-4), 215-108. After a while, Hogan said the physical nature of the contest caught up with them.

“In the third quarter, our guys get tired and we’re kind of not giving great effort, and that’s on me,” he said. “The guys are working their butts off, but we just kind of fall apart in the third quarter.”

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