Academy Park looks to cap perfect season

SHARON HILL >> Academy Park is 12-0 for the first time in history and playing for its second District One Class AAA title in three years Friday night.

The top-seeded Knights are a confident and determined bunch as they travel to Plymouth Whitemarsh High to take on No. 2 Upper Moreland. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

“We’re ready to win,” All-Delco defensive back Clarence Buchanan said. “It’s as simple as that.”

The Knights are heavy favorites to claim the crown. They put on a show last week, routing Great Valley in the semifinal round, 39-14. It was a coming-out party for an offense that mustered just 21 points over the previous two weeks.

The Knights unleashed dynamic athlete Jawan Collins at quarterback. With Collins touching the ball on every play, AP exploded for 433 yards of offense, its highest total since a Week 9 win at Chester. Collins was spectacular both running and passing the ball. He was 6-of-9 passing for 142 yards and two touchdowns and added 114 yards and a score on the ground. Meanwhile, senior Jermaine Wesley rushed for 137 and totaled three touchdowns in the win.

“They didn’t know what we were going to do,” offensive tackle Nykeal Jalloh said. “They stopped their attack on defense. They didn’t know how good (Collins) was.”

And that new wrinkle on offense will work to the Knights’ advantage considering that Upper Moreland doesn’t have much film to go by. However, there’s no telling for sure what coach Jason Vosheski and his staff have up their sleeves. It’s conceivable that junior Taylor Moors, who started every game this year for the Knights before Collins took over last Friday, will be the signal caller once again while Collins moves back to his customary wide receiver/athlete role.

Whatever the Knights decide to do on offense, they believe they have the weapons to outlast Upper Moreland (10-2).

“I think we needed a game like that,” Vosheski said of last week’s 39-point outburst. “Great Valley is an offensive-minded team… so we kind of needed a big game like that, to take the pressure off the defense a little bit. Especially after two weeks of playing Interboro and Springfield. They both have very good defenses and we put up 21 points total.”

Asked to compare Upper Moreland’s (10-2) defense to another team the Knights faced, Vosheski said it is hard to determine on film.

“It looks like they don’t move around on defense as often,” he said. “Interboro, for example, would change up. It doesn’t look like they blitz a lot. They probably would most resemble Springfield in terms of how they play, but I just don’t know if they’re as good defensively.

“It’s hard to see on film and know for sure. You don’t know what you’re getting until you play.”

On the other side of the ball, the Knights will have to contend with 2,000-yard running back Rodney Morgan, who accrued 273 yards and accounted for all four of his team’s touchdowns in Upper Moreland’s 28-20 triumph over Marple Newtown last week.

“That No. 5 (Morgan) is small, but he runs real hard and is hard to take down,” said Buchanan, who leads the county with nine interceptions.

“They seem like they have a lot of heart … but our defense got us here and we’ve got to finish. Defense wins championships, baby.”

Morgan will be the focal point for the Knights ball-hawking defense that has made life miserable for many running backs.

“He breaks tackles and he’s hard to bring down,” Vosheski said of Morgan. “I’m not sure how shifty he is, but I’m sure he has some of that in him. He’s their guy.”

Defensively, the Knights are dominant. They are yielding an average of 5.6 points (68 points allowed in 12 games). Moreover, the Knights haven’t allowed more than 19 points in a game all year. The 14 points they gave up to Great Valley marked the first time since Week 1 that they’ve allowed more than a touchdown.

“We have been stepping up against the tougher teams,” Buchanan said. “We just believe what we can do. We have a lot of All-Delco type of players on defense. I think (some teams) underestimated us this year, and we just (try to) prove what we can do.”

The Knights captured the program’s first District One championship in 2013.  Most of the seniors on this year’s AP team were seldom-used sophomores that season. For good reason, they didn’t feel they were big reasons for that team’s success. But the 2015 Knights are their team, and the veterans are ready to go out as champions.

“I played kickoff and special teams that year a little bit, but if we win districts this year, I can actually say that I started and was a big part,” Buchanan said. “That will mean a lot.”

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