Daniels’ pick is Knights’ best medicine
SHARON HILL >> Academy Park quarterback Skylor Fillis had just thrown interceptions on consecutive dropbacks. Chester had trimmed a three-touchdown lead to seven points within the first three and a half minutes of the second half.
The Knights defense needed something drastic to stem the tide. So Brian Daniels stepped up.
Daniels’ interception midway through the third quarter didn’t lead directly to the scoreboard. But it calmed a frenetic period on the way to a 35-22 Knights win over the Clippers.
“I just got to my drop, I saw the ball in slow motion,” Daniels said. “I juggled it a little bit and I caught it.”
The interception didn’t translate to points. In fact, Academy Park coughed the ball up one play later when Edward Soloku fumbled a reverse. But AP’s defense toughened after that, scoring the next 14 points to open up what had been a 21-14 game, aided in no small measure by Daniels’ pick.
“That interception was real big because our offense was moving kind of slow,” Fillis said. “Everyone kind of had their head down because we weren’t playing the way we thought we should have. And he just came through and made a big play and it switched the energy in the game. Chester had the energy, and it gave us the energy back.”
“It was a game-changer,” Daniels said. “It changed the momentum for our offense and for our whole team.”
The interception signaled a remarkable turnaround for Academy Park (7-1, 3-0 Del Val) in the pass defense department. Last week, Chichester’s Nate Decenzi blistered them for 317 yards and four scores, the yardage an Eagles program record. This week, they shut out Tahree Fuller-Bryan through the air, the Chester signal-caller going 0-for-13 with the pick before exiting in the fourth quarter.
Fuller-Bryan ran for two touchdowns, but AP adjusted well to the threat of a usually strong Chester passing attack. Part of it was compensating for the absence of Devon Covert, who limped off in the middle of last week’s game and forced AP to regroup on the fly. Nafees Fox deputized in the secondary this week, and the results were an obvious improvement.
“We just worked on playing the ball and getting to our drops and being aggressive,” Daniels said.
It looked like Chester (2-6,
1-2) had every reason to pack it in at halftime. The Clippers trailed 21-0, the last blow a heartbreaking 78-yard run by Soloku to the house with 17 seconds left in the half. Fillis and Zion Bradley also ran for scores in the first half, and Filis was
4-for-5 through the air, AP outgaining the Clippers 219-69 in the opening 24 minutes.
But the Clippers answered the call after the break.
“Coach was saying that wasn’t really us,” defensive captain Aasim Muhammad said. “So we had to come out better, do our assignments, play football and have fun doing it. And we executed it.”
AP gave them an opening with a lackadaisical opening drive of the third, starting with a fumbled kickoff. Tahmir Reese pressured the ensuing punt, smothered by Mohammad for a total distance of minus-6 yards. Fuller-Bryan charged in from the five on the next play to make it 21-6. After Muhammad picked off Fillis and returned it 32 yards to the eight, it took two plays for Fuller-Bryan to twist into paydirt and make it 21-14.
Hakeem Bacon followed with an interception, but the Daniels pick and Soloku’s fumble made it three turnovers on five snaps. That gave enough room for Bradley to go to work.
The running back carried 17 times for 111 yards. His 28-yard score with 10:28 to play was a masterpiece, getting to the second level, dropping his shoulder to deke a tackler then accelerating past another.
“Zion’s speed is a good advantage for our offense,” Fillis said. “He fits in perfectly with what we’re trying to do.”
Academy Park quarterback Skylor Fillis, right, offers running back Zion Bradley congratulations after he scored in the first quarter against Chichester last week. Fillis and Bradley (two TDs) both scored Friday night against Chester.