Eagles’ amazing season ends in loss to AP
SHARON HILL >> A familiar face with a smartphone walked on the field Friday night at Knight Park filming players, cheerleaders and fans. They all stood, frozen. Academy Park was celebrating its 26-13 District 1 5A quarterfinal round victory over No. 7 Bishop Shanahan by doing the mannequin challenge, and 2016 graduate and AllDelco lineman Nykeal Jalloh was busy recording it all.
“Yo, bring that camera over here ‘Keal,’” said Teddy Wright, an All-Delco defensive back/ linebacker, who was busy doing a post-game interview. Too late. “Ran out of storage,” senior running back Dazhon Miller quipped.
The visiting Eagles ran out of gas against the secondseeded Knights, who advance to the semifinal round to play No. 3 Marple Newtown, which
claimed a thrilling twoovertime win over West Chester East.
AP (11-1) earned itself a little play time following a decisive victory, its 21st straight at home. The Knights are two wins away from what would be their district championship since 2013.
Bishop Shanahan was a worthy opponent. Senior quarterback Nick Skulski had the Knights running in circles by continuously eluding pressure in the pocket.
“He was really good,” Wright said. “He’s my man. I know Nick, I play 7-on-7 with him on Delco Elite (football training program). He’s a great player.”
While Skulski made some dazzling plays with his arm and feet, the Knights were able to intercept him twice and contain the Eagles’ high-octane passing attack. Skulski finished 18 of 34 for 184 yards and a touchdown.
“We knew they were really good, their quarterback and their receivers. We saw the film,” said safety Jermal Martin, who recorded his team-leading sixth interception. “We knew they were going to be aggressive.”
Skulski eluded a handful of would-be sacks in the third quarter when he found Joe Guereria all alone in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Skulski’s magic act had pulled Shanahan (8-4) within seven points, 20-13.
The Knights were impressed with the 5-11, 170-pounder’s ability to make something out of nothing.
“On that one play they scored against us, he was ducking and diving,” Martin said. “The d-backs were just sitting there waiting. He was hopping all over the place. The guy from the backside came over and was wide open. He was a pretty good kid.”
But the Knights were always a step ahead of Skulski and the Eagles.
“We knew that in playoffs, it’s either you win or you go home,” Skulski said. “As a senior, we knew we can’t take any plays off. We couldn’t take anything for granted. All of us seniors really left it out on the field tonight. Our underclassmen were playing for us, too, and I can’t thank them and all of my 50 brothers enough. It was a great experience.”
AP delivered a big blow on the final play of the second quarter. With one second left on the clock, quarterback Taylor Moors (6-of8, 128 yards) dropped back and threw a 32-yard strike to Davoughtne Brown, who slid into the end zone for a touchdown.
“We knew they were a high-powered offense with the run game, but it was a couple mistakes here and there,” Skulski said. “We knew we gave away points
at the end of the first half. We had some turnovers, too.”
While Moors delivered in the passing game, the Knights dominated with their rushing attack, most notably the onetwo punch of Wright (129 yards, TD) and Miller (128 yards, TD).
Miller’s three-yard jaunt to the end zone gave the Knights the lead for good in the second quarter. Wright’s 16-yard scoring scamper early in the fourth quarter gave AP a two-touchdown cushion.
“As long as our big guys keep pushing, our line ... they’ve led us the whole year,” Wright said. “They open it up and we just go.”
“Our o-line did a really good job for us today,” Miller added. “Can’t win without them.”
After last week, a 42-17 triumph over 15th-seeded Radnor, the Knights knew they had to be better against Shanahan. In the Radnor game, the Knights allowed the Raiders to hang around until the fourth quarter. They were focused on putting forth a complete performance Friday.
“I told everybody before the game, as long as we play like a family, we’ll be good,” Miller said. “We have to play like that every game.”
The Knights opened the scoring when Moors found Shymere Stroud for a 46yard touchdown pass.
After producing 540 yards of total offense a week ago, the Knights offense continued to produce, outgaining the Eagles in total yardage, 416-222. That effort was helped along by the work of senior offensive lineman Chris Thomas, who started his 50th game on varsity Friday night. A starter since his freshman year, Thomas is the first Academy Park player in program history to reach that milestone.
On defense, Knights linemen Amara Kenneth, Corey Simmons, Kasai Crawford and Cyle Martin helped limit Shanahan’s running game to 43 yards on 20 carries.
Academy Park’s Dazhon Miller, right, churns up the yardage while Bishop Shanahan’s Steve Sweeney tries to hone in during Friday night’s District 1 quarterfinal playoff victory for the Knights.
Academy Park’s Jermal Martin, left, intercepts a pass intended for Bishop Shanahan wide receiver John Kozinski Friday night at Knight Park.