RIDLEY TWP. — Eric Doe would have thought about one play long and hard if things went just a little bit different for Academy Park in Friday night's District One Class AAA title game at Ridley.
The nature of being a cornerback means that you're going to get beat sometimes, and Doe sure picked a bad time to allow Glen Mills' Kenneth Flowers to snare a 43-yard catch-and-run that gave the Bulls a first down in the Knights' red zone.
So for six plays, it looked like Doe would wear the goat horns if the Bulls were able to tie it up. Funny how quickly things can change, though. With the game on the line and Glen Mills facing fourth-and-seven, Bulls quarterback Dontae Coates dropped back and lofted a fade to 6-3, 215-pound Dawine Harmon, with whom Doe was in man-to-man coverage.
And by the time Doe got his hand on the football and caused it to harmlessly fall to the turf, the goat horns were off and Academy Park had secured the first district title in school history via a 22-14 win. So what was going on in Doe's mind after being beat by Flowers?
"Actually,' Doe offered up, "nothing.'
"Our coaches always tell us the best athletes are the ones that are able to let things go quickly,' Doe added. "My teammates just told me, ' let it go, let it go,' and I took their advice and let it go. When I saw the ball in the air, I knew (Harmon) wasn't catching it. I kind of lost him as I was dropping back and I thought our safety was going to be over the top and he wasn't. That was my fault, so I had to make up.'
Consider it sweet redemption for Doe, and in the grand scheme of things, for the entire Knights' defense. AP (10-3), which takes on District 12 champion Archbishop Wood next week, ceded all 14 points in the first half, including the first touchdown on Glen Mills' first drive where the Bulls (9-4) did whatever they wanted, however they wanted in leading to Shaaheen Dow's 14-yard scoring scamper.
But in the second half, the Knights showed how they had gotten to this point. Defensive tackle Shaun Green recorded a sack, linebacker Jeremy Dembry and safety Marlin Jackson each stuffed a Glen Mills fourth-down attempt and, of course, there was Doe.
"We went into the locker room at halftime,' linebacker Osman Toure said, "and we knew, like we said earlier before we played, that if we contained them from making a lot of big plays, we could contain them and win. That's what we did. We limited the big plays that they made and that's what helped us win. It's being able to stick together. Eric Doe, he made up for his mistake that he made and that's what great players do.'
Indeed, and maybe that's how the proud AP defense was able to withstand Glen Mills' finest efforts. Dow got his 123 yards on 24 carries, but he had to earn every single one of those yards and paid the price on nearly every one of his rushes. The Knights got extremely aggressive with their blitzes, regularly shooting linebackers up the A gaps to stunt the Bulls' rhythm and blocking schemes. It worked to perfection.
"We made a couple adjustments, stuck together and made plays like we were supposed to,' linebacker Jamar Dembry said. "Second half, we were down, we believed in our offense and the D just had to step up. (After the completion), we stuck together as a family like we're supposed to and we told Eric, ' don't worry about it, you'll get your chance again,' and he got his chance again.'
Because of it, the Knights will have their chance to win a state tournament game for the first time in school history, and all it took was the difference of six plays.