SHARON HILL — What didn't Jerry Lanier accomplish in Academy Park's 35-22 District One Class AAA quarterfinal victory over Interboro Friday night?
A) Score five touchdowns.
B) Become the school's all-time leading rusher.
C) Return a kickoff to the house.
D) Register an interception.
Option "E' would be none of the above, because the county's best running back did all of those things to lift the Knights to the semifinals. The No. 4 Knights travel to top-seeded Pottsgrove next week to meet the undefeated Falcons, who crushed No. 8 Phoenixville, 49-7, in another quarterfinal matchup.
Simply put, Lanier was amazing. With his team facing the possibility of another heart-breaking defeat to the rival Bucs, Lanier put the Knights on his back.
When the fourth-seeded Bucs erased a 22-6, second-half deficit and evened the score, Lanier had a message for his coaches and teammates.
"They just had to put the ball in my hands,' said Lanier, who racked up 253 yards. "Just keep giving me the ball ...'
The Bucs gave Lanier and Co. a short field to work with on the ensuing kickoff, moments after Interboro's Steve Phillips scampered 17 yards and Nick Pfaff caught a conversion pass to knot things up. With seven minutes to go, the Knights set up shop at the Bucs' 49. Eight plays later, Lanier was in the end zone, his third of four rushing scores, and the Knights went back on top.
"Once the score got tied, 22-22, we pretty much said that we're going to feed the horse and we were going to right his back,' coach Jason Vosheski said. "And when the defense came up with the fourth-down stop, it was a no-brainer that we were going to ride him.'
Early in the game, Lanier became Academy Park's all-time leading rusher. He passed his cousin, Byron Johnson, who held the record since 1997.
Lanier put the finishing touches on an Academy Park win — and a second consecutive district semifinal appearance — with an interception of quarterback Pat Cashin.
He was half-man, half-amazing. The five touchdowns didn't set any county records, but his performance Friday night was epic.
To the Bucs' credit, they made it a game until the Knights pulled ahead for good in the waning minutes. Trailing 28-22, Interboro had the ball and four minutes to tie the game and possibly take the lead with a two-point conversion. Facing a fourth down and needing only four yards, Cashin bootlegged to his right and aired a pass to the fullback Phillips in the flat. The ball deflected off Phillips' fingertips, and the Knights got the big stop they desperately needed.
The big stop they didn't get last season.
"We had to hold it together,' linebacker Osman Toure said. "We had to keep reminding everybody on defense that we're not losing, we're not losing. At first, we started pointing fingers a little bit, but we had to change it around. We kept on rolling, kept on moving forward.'
Not to be lost in the shadow of Lanier's incredible effort was that of Interboro running back Eric Owens. The senior captain ran with a reckless abandon, dragging Knights defenders for huge chunks of yardage. He logged 199 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.
"Without (fullback) Sonny (Armstrong), we weren't sure exactly what they were going to do with their running game,' Toure said. "We knew they were going to do the same stuff they did before but we weren't sure how much without Sonny. I know for sure that kind of surprised us a bit that their other running backs got that many yards on us.'
The Bucs set the tone with an impressive opening drive that effectively wore down the Knights on defense. Owens and Phillips shared carries throughout the 87-yard drive before Cashin connected with wide receiver Mark Everton on a 14-yard touchdown pass.
"Steve (Phillips) made the holes, and I found them. We pounded the ball in. He did a great job, offensive line did a great job blocking,' Owens said " ... It's not easy to say, but I know deep down in my heart that these guys played every down with everything they had in their heart.'
Offensive linemen Matt Gould and Miguel Quinones were at the forefront of the Bucs' success running the ball. Amir Hassan and Yuki Turner did the dirty work for Lanier.
Funny enough, both the Knights and Bucs finished with 286 team rushing yards. Lanier dazzled with a 22-yard run for his first score, when he stopped at the line of scrimmage, found a small hole and darted to the end zone late in the second quarter. He dazzled on the opening kickoff of the second half, running east-to-west before turning upfield 69 yards to pay dirt, as the Knights extended their advantage to 16 points.
"The line has been blocking all year, doing a great job,' Lanier said. "If they give me the ball and block it right, we're gonna win. They can't stop me.'
Pottsgrove is next to try.
"Hopefully, we can come back down to earth a little. We won the game and that's great, but we still made our share of mistakes that we have to fix,' Vosheski said. "We need to be more disciplined. I thought we got away from that tonight a little bit.
"Pottsgrove is going to be a different style of offense, but they're going to be just as tough up front. We need to match their intensity, especially at their place.'