SHARON HILL — With Academy Park facing a 3rd-and-forever in the second quarter, Jamar Dembry knew what he had to do.
At first, he wasn't thinking about recovering all 40 yards and giving the Knights a fresh batch of downs. Instead, he was focused on finding a way to give his special teams some breathing room, as it was all but guaranteed the Knights would punt the ball away.
After all, who covers 35 yards in one play?
Dembry, though, had bailed out the Knights once before, setting up a touchdown by making a spectacular 37-yard catch of a Brian Ingram pass.
At his point, the Knights had just committed three penalties in one play — a block in the back for 10 yards and two unsportsmanlike conducts calls.
The Knights would have been content with a curl route for 10 yards, but Dembry had other ideas once he hauled in Dembry's pass over the middle of the field.
"You gotta be great,' said Dembry, who doubles as a bone-crushing linebacker. "It was my time to shine, so I knew I had to make the most of it. I just wanted to do my best.'
Dembry broke tackle after tackle and, after he was finally brought down, had given the Knights a first down with a 48-yard reception. Was it the turning point in the Knights' decisive, 43-31 victory over Cardinal O'Hara? Perhaps. The game turned into an slugfest between two offensive-minded teams, but make no mistake, the Knights fed off that miracle conversion. Suddenly they had the momentum they were looking for.
On paper, the game seemed close, but the reality is Academy Park (2-0) was the better team. A much better team.
"I've been waiting for this all week,' said Ingram, who rushed for four touchdowns and 87 yards. "I'm losing my voice. I'm just so excited that we were able to win this. When we got the penalties, and we backed up, I saw (Dembry) and he was wide open and I was hitting. I was very happy. And the one before (that led to Ingram's first touchdown run and an 8-0 Knights lead), I didn't see nobody else open and he had a height advantage over their corner. So, I just threw it up to him and let him be an athlete and go get it.'
There's a popular saying in the Knights' locker room prior to every game, a slogan that sounds awfully familiar to the ex-Philadelphia baseball player that coined the phrase, "Let's go eat!'
"Before every game, we say: ' We're eatin',' Ingram said. "We want to come out here and play are hardest, from the first quarter to the fourth. Every down, we play our hardest.'
One week after the Lions (0-2) gave up 345 rushing yards to Archbishop Carroll, the Knights, spearheaded by the amazing Jerry Lanier, slashed and dashed their way to 317 yards on the ground.
Oh, and Lanier finished with 224 yards on the ground, one week after going off for 213 yards against Marple Newtown. At this pace, Lanier could become the all-time single-season rushing leader in Delaware County history. It's way too early, but Tony Canci's mark of 2,323 yards, set as a member of Sun Valley in 2004, could be in serious jeopardy.
The Knights led 16-7 at halftime, and on just the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter, took a 22-7 advantage when Lanier darted through the heart of O'Hara's defense 53 yards to pay dirt. O'Hara hung tough on offense, getting within nine points when Boston College-bound receiver Thadd Smith caught a 35-yard scoring pass from Dashawn Darden.
"Archbishop Ryan is a completely different team than us, so it was hard to get a read as to what they were going to do,' Academy Park coach Jason Vosheski said. "They're big -- they're bigger than we are. I think we surprised ourselves, especially after the week of practice we had. It was not a good week. But, we got better as we went. I'm definitely a little bit surprised how well we did offensively.'
The second half was a shootout, but the Knights took control after Ingram's 15-yard keeper extended their lead to 29-13. By then, O'Hara was playing a game of catch-up it couldn't win. It also hurt that kicker Steve Weyler and running back J.T. Blyden (50 yards, 14 carries) exited due to injury. Lamont Veal stepped up, rushing for 98 yards and two TDs.
For the Knights, a 2-0 record is sweet, but there's still a lot of work to be done. Are they the best team in Delco? They don't care.
"We're going to keep it in check,' Ingram said. "We can't let our heads get too big.'