By STEVEN LEITZEL
MALVERN – There’s a frequently used adage that describes a game as being so good, it’s a shame someone had to lose.
The epitome of such a match occurred on a muggy Friday evening at Valley Stadium, as the Knights of Academy Park downed Great Valley, 19-13, in a nonleague tilt.
Led by Jerry Lanier’s workmanlike performance – 25 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown – the Knights (2-0) jumped out to a 19-0 lead before weathering the storm and holding on for a hard-fought victory.
“He’s not big in stature, but the kid’s a workhorse,” said Academy Park head coach Jason Voshenski. “One guy’s not bringing him down. He’s going to fight for everything he gets, and he’s got speed. If you sleep on him, he’ll take one.”
Great Valley (1-1) looked to set the tone early, as sophomore tailback River Johnson busted off a 58-yard run down the left sideline on the second play from scrimmage. Unfortunately for the Pats, he was unable to secure the football with his left forearm in a cast, and was stripped at the Academy Park 13-yard line.
The teams exchanged a few punts and, two possessions later, the Pats continued to shoot themselves in the foot. Facing a fourth-and-one, highly-recruited senior quarterback Chris Geiss took a keeper right, was spun around by a defender clutching his jersey, maintained his balance and scored from 25 yards out. The effort was all for naught, as the play was negated by a holding penalty.
After dodging that bullet, the Knights proceeded to utilize a no-huddle attack to keep Great Valley off balance. Handing off to Lanier repeatedly lulled the defense to sleep – and quarterback Tyler Street was able to capitalize. On a third-and-one, the senior passer sucked the Pats’ defense in with a play-action fake to Lanier, and then fired a strike to senior wideout Darrell Williams for a 49-yard gain down the right hash. On the very next play, Lanier punched in a dive for a five-yard score and a 7-0 lead.
The Knights’ defense continued to stymie the Pats for the remainder of the half, and forced them to punt from deep in their own end just before halftime. Junior wide receiver Jeff Devaughn fielded the ball close to midfield, snuck around the right side of the wedge and returned the punt 30 yards down to the Great Valley 14. Two plays later, Street arched a ball to the right corner of the end zone. The pass was broken up, but junior Brian Ingram was in the right place at the right time, running underneath the tipped ball and hauling it in for touchdown with just 9 seconds left in the half. The PAT failed, giving the Knights a 13-0 lead heading into the break.
Both teams turned the football over on downs to start the third period, before Academy Park converted a fourth-down fade pattern to senior Earl Hargrove, who outleaped a cornerback for the 23-yard touchdown reception. The ensuing kick again failed, staking the Knights to a 19-0 advantage.
It was at this moment that the highly-touted Pats responded. In a manner befitting their new black and blue uniforms, they continually fed the rock to bruising running back Max Burgess. The senior carried the bulk of the load on a 5-play, 66-yard drive that culminated in a two-yard burst off left tackle that pulled Great Valley within 19-7 just 6.8 seconds before the start of the final stanza.
Following a three-and-out, the momentum clearly shifted in favor of the Pats, as a bad snap gave them the ball at the Knights’ 21. Six plays later, Burgess again struck pay dirt on 4-yard sweep around left end on a fourth-and-goal play. The subsequent kick was blocked, narrowing the deficit to 19-13.
The Great Valley defense forced yet another punt with 3:33 to play, at which point the comeback seemed inevitable. But Geiss, who was hobbled and harassed throughout the contest, saw his final attempt of the night picked off by Williams at the Academy Park 20, ending the threat.
“They’ll make us a better team going forward,” said Pats head coach Mike Choi. “That’s why we put them on the schedule, because we knew that they were going to give us a good look in the second game. You don’t want to play nonconference opponents that don’t make you better. It all hurts when you lose, but if you can take something out of it, and you can learn from it for games that are later on in your season, that’s what you’re looking for.”
Academy Park 19, Great Valley 13
Academy Park 7 6 6 0--19
Great Valley 0 0 7 6--13
AP – Lanier 5 run (Doe kick)
AP – Ingram 9 pass from Street (kick failed)
AP – Hargrove 23 pass from Street (kick failed)
GV – Burgess 2 run (Fuydal kick)
GV – Burgess 4 run (kick blocked)
First downs 9 12
Yards rushing 140 212
Yards passing 94 22
Total yards 234 234
Passing 7-16-0 3-10-1
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-1
Penalties 7-70 9-95
Punts-Avg. 4-31.8 4-33.3
RUSHING – AP: Lanier 25-126, TD; Devaughn 3-25; Trudge 1-1; Ingram 1-(-2); Street 4-(-5); Mitchell 1-(-5). GV: Burgess 7-70, 2 TD; Johnson 4-59; Geiss 15-43; Ames 9-15; Fitzpatrick 3-15; Temple 5-10.
PASSING – AP: Street 7-16, 94, 2 TD. GV: Geiss 3-10, 22, INT.
RECEIVING – AP: Hargrove 2-20, TD; Lanier 2-11; Williams 1-49; Ingram 1-9, TD; Devaughn 1-5. GV: Burgess 2-16; Johnson 1-6.
SACKS – AP: Warren, Rideout, Thomas. GV: Slaats.
INTERCEPTIONS – AP: Williams. GV: none.