UPPER CHICHESTER — The stakes were high for both teams heading into Friday night Del Val League showdown between Academy Park and Chichester. Both the Knights and Eagles were playing for more than just pride: Academy Park was looking to wrap up a home playoff game and Chichester needed a win to have a chance at the postseason.
The Knights, as they have done most of this season, embraced the challenge and secured a 43-28 victory behind the legs of running back Jerry Lanier and the arm of quarterback Brian Ingram.
On Academy Park's second play of the game Ingram connected with Lanier for a 67-yard touchdown pass, but that was the just the first play of many the duo would make on the night. Ingram later hit Jamar Dembry (103 receiving yards) and Jeff Devaughn with touchdown passes to help the Knights race out to a 22-0 halftime lead.
"It felt good to finally get some passing yards,' said Ingram with a laugh. "We saw that their corners were playing up on our receivers and our receivers are fast, so we felt like we had a better match-up. (The receivers) said they liked when they were pressing them and once they got off the jam, I could just throw it up to them. This feels great. We have a home playoff game next week and we're ready to take on whoever we play.'
For Knights coach Jason Vosheski, it was good to see Ingram (6-of-8 passing for 202 yards) so efficient under center.
"He's been hot and cold the past couple of weeks, but he's had two good weeks of practice and he did what he was coached to do,' said Vosheski. "He looked really good back there.'
Vosheski was pleased to see his team playing well in multiple aspects of the game on both sides of the ball.
"Defensively, we had a couple of guys on the front-line play out of this world and some linebackers behind them providing good support,' Vosheski said. "The defense played great other than one broken coverage we had where their kid also made a great play.'
While the first-half score might seem lopsided, the play on the field was not as slanted toward the Knights as the deficit showed. The Eagles had several dropped passes that could have extended drives, along with one that would have been a certain score. Chichester also allowed Academy Park to gets its final touchdown of the half when a penalty nullified a would-be interception by Duffy Gilhool interception that would have left the Eagles trailing only 16-0. Just seconds after Ingram was upended on the roughing the passer call, he found Devaughn for a score as time expired.
After Ingram's first-half aerial show, the Academy Park ground game went to work. Ingram had a 13-yard scoring run, and Lanier added touchdown runs of 88 and three yards to give the Knights a commanding 43-7 by the end of the third quarter.
Lanier was a nightmare for the Eagles defense to contain as he tallied 272 yards on 22 carries, but the talented senior was not interested in even looking back five minutes to reflect on the game, but rather focused on the next task at hand.
"We're dangerous,' Lanier said. "(Other teams) have to watch out for us. We ain't worrying about these teams. We play at home next week, we're going to see who we're going to play, and we're going to come out and do the same thing. That's what we're going to do.'
Lanier, though, did take time to talk about the play of his offensive line, which was excellent on the night.
"I love them man,' said Lanier of the grunts on the Knight's offensive line. "They're big, they're strong, and some of ' em are fast. I like the line and they're playin' great.'
To its credit, Chichester kept fighting even against what seemed like insurmountable odds. Gilhool connected with Tamein Jackson on a 67-yard scoring pass in the third quarter before Chichester added three fourth-quarter scores to give the game its final margin.
Jackson added a 58-yard touchdown run and a 65-yard touchdown reception from Gilhool in the fourth quarter, while Chichester linebacker Dan Sullivan picked up a fumble and ran 32 yards for a score. On the night Jackson finished with six catches for 170 yards and 60 rushing yards, while Gilhool connected on 13 of 23 pass attempts for 263 yards and two scores.
"Tonight was about the character of the kids and what we're trying to do here,' Eagles coach Ryan Smith said. "They kept fighting and fighting all night. You want to end up on the top end of these games, but hats off to them. They're a phenomenal football team.'