Academy Park doesn’t stop until it reaches district final

SHARON HILL >> Undefeated and having surrendered 54 points all season prior to its District One Class AAA semifinal with Great Valley, Academy Park faced little adversity in its march through an undefeated campaign. When the Knights have been challenged, however, they’ve always responded.

The Patriots put the hosts to the test early Friday night by driving to the Academy Park one on their first possession of the game. Mark DeRoberts accounted for 29 yards as fourth-seeded Great Valley threatened to take the lead. But the Knights refused to yield and on fourth-and-goal, Teddy Wright blasted through the line to stuff DeRoberts for a loss.

“I expected my man to come to me,” Wright said. “I lowered my shoulder and made the tackle like we’re taught.”

Top-ranked Academy Park took over on downs, turned in a 98-yard scoring drive, and battered the visiting Patriots in a 39-14 win that sends the Knights (12-0) to their second district title game in three years.

Academy Park's Togba Porte, right, drags down Great Valley's Mark Derobertis during a 39-14 win in the District One Class AAA semifinal Friday night. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)
Academy Park’s Togba Porte, right, drags down Great Valley’s Mark Derobertis during a 39-14 win in the District One Class AAA semifinal Friday night. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)

“Every time during the course of the season where we’ve been up against our goal line, we’ve always bounced back,” said AP coach Jason Vosheski. “We don’t put our heads down, and we come back strong.”

That was the theme of the night for the Del Val League champs. After Wright stuffed DeRoberts inside the five, Jawan Collins led the Knights down the field with Jermaine “Duke” Wesley providing the last 33 yards for a score. Tied at seven, Wesley countered with a 10-yard scamper to restore the lead.

When Great Valley pulled within one score to start the second half, Collins answered with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Kareem Burton on the very next play to make it 27-14. The growing advantage proved something devastatingly obvious for Academy Park: The larger the lead, the better it plays.

“We feed off of the offense’s energy and they feed off us,” said Knights defensive end Togba Porte, who led the assault on Great Valley quarterback Robert Geiss. Forced into passing plays due to the deficit, Geiss was left to scramble for his life against AP’s strong pass rush. Porte himself finished with four sacks and five-and-a-half tackles-for-loss. Geiss limped his way through the third and fourth quarters.

“Mainly, it’s using our hands and staying low,” Porte said of his ability to get to Geiss. “Their line stood tall, so low man always wins. And don’t ever stop. Don’t ever stop.”

“Our D-line is not the biggest group of guys,” Vosheski said. “But their speed and quickness goes a long way.”

And the Knights have a secondary that makes plays. With All-Delco defensive back Clarence Buchanan in and out of the game with various injuries, Wright stepped up in his stead. Not only did he stonewall DeRoberts, he picked off Geiss to close the first half and knocked a pass out of bounds on another Patriots fourth-and-goal, this one with 8:12 left on the clock.

Needless to say, AP turned that stop into a 90-yard scoring drive.

“All we talk about is if we’re up by two scores, we’ll be OK,” Porte said.

He had more than enough support Friday. Collins was brilliant in his debut at quarterback, completing six of nine passes — with two drops — for 142 yards and two scores. He added two touchdowns on the ground as well. Before Friday, Collins had never started a game at quarterback.

Academy Park's Jermaine Wesley (3) runs for a touchdown as Great Valley's Zach Tillett (28) comes up short on the tackle attempt during a 39-14 Knights win. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)
Academy Park’s Jermaine Wesley (3) runs for a touchdown as Great Valley’s Zach Tillett (28) comes up short on the tackle attempt during a 39-14 Knights win. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)

No play captured the senior’s combination of talent and inexperience like the touchdown pass to Burton. Collins faked a handoff to Wesley on a read option before throwing a dart over the middle that Burton ran to the end zone untouched. The score left Vosheski smirking.

“We don’t have a read option,” the coach said. “So if that’s what it looked like, that’s on (Collins). He is a wide receiver.”

The improvisation worked all night. With Wesley running for 137 yards and two touchdowns (he caught a touchdown pass, too, to seal the 39-14 win), the Knights accumulated 433 yards of total offense. They played physical on both sides of the ball, leaving Great Valley (9-3) muddied and bruised at the final whistle of its 2015 campaign.

“We knew what our goal was at the start of this season,” said Wright. “We’re just at our next step.”

The win moves Academy Park to 12-0 for the first time in school history. Another victory would give the Knights their second district championship.

“We made history tonight,” said Porte, who saw spot duty as a freshman on that 2013 title team. “I’d like to make it again.”

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