Porte, Academy Park tune up Glen Mills

SHARON HILL >> Togba Porte’s jaws, like his team’s defensive line, never stop moving.

The Academy Park junior plays weakside defensive end for the Knights, who rotate six players on their four-man line. Between every down — and every hard count from the opposing team’s quarterback — it’s not uncommon to see Academy Park’s linemen shuffle, weave, and bob from left to right to interchange their spots.

“It’s all about communication,” Porte said of the synchronicity. “We have great chemistry and we’re always talking.”

Academy Park’s defense held Glen Mills in check, as the Knights blanked the Bulls, 33-0, Friday night in a Del Val League game at Knight Park.

Coach Jason Vosheski’s defense racked up 10 tackles for loss, intercepted Glen Mills quarterback Javon Thomas four times, and limited the Bulls to 142 yards of total offense. Jawan Collins, Clarence Buchanan, Will McQueen and Teddy Wright all picked off Thomas, helping the Knights post their fifth shutout of the season.

Academy Park (8-0, 3-0), which remained in the driver’s seat in the Del Val and is ranked first in the District One Class AAA power rankings, needed nearly three quarters to get its offense on track.

“Our defense has been doing an amazing job, and has taken the pressure off us on offense,” said Vosheski, who this week was elevated to Academy Park athletic director, in addition to his football coaching and history teaching duties.

The Knights scored on their opening drive and, over their next 10 offensive snaps, had 22 yards and two lost fumbles. If not for an interception return for touchdown by Collins sandwiched in-between, Glen Mills’ halftime deficit might have been only one score rather than two.

Instead, the Knights led, 13-0, at the break.

By the time Deandray Covert scooted past two would-be tacklers and into the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown, Academy Park had found its offensive footing … with 2:44 left in the third quarter.

“We stay disciplined and we play ball. That’s how we win,” said linebacker Terrel Lee, one of Academy Park’s captains. “Sometimes, we have to keep things steady until the offense gets going. That’s all it was.”

Collins, who rushed six times for 147 yards, and Jermaine Wesley, who logged 145 yards on 19 carries, each found the end zone in the fourth quarter to pad Academy Park’s lead.

The story of Academy Park’s win falls upon the shoulders, and vocal chords, of the players on its defense. The Knights swear they know where they need to be on any given play as a result of lots of practice.

“It’s all in summer camp,” Lee said. “If you don’t know where you are, or where you have to be, you have to say something. Otherwise, you’re not going to play and you’re not going to start. Coaches say they have to be able to trust us.”

Porte says lots of talking with his teammates ensures they know where to be on any given play. His voice plays a role off the field, too. Porte sings the National Anthem at each of Academy Park’s home games. His smooth, resonant singing voice boomed through the press box and through the microphone as he belted out the lyrics.

“He’ll start out deep and then hit a high note,” Lee said. “It’s amazing.”

Porte said he’s a member of his church’s and school’s choir, though he’s never been classically trained. He said he auditioned for this year’s season of The Voice, an NBC talent-contest show.

“I went to New York for it,” he said. “The first audition, I made it through. The second audition, they made me sing with music, and I’ve never done that before. When I was done, this woman said, ‘OK, I’m going to say no to you for this season.’ I was so upset, but it’s all right.”

Porte may not have won The Voice, but he and the Knights are making up for it with wins on a weekly basis.

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