PHILADELPHIA — Academy Park senior Jeff Devaughn had no reason to be upset after the Knights lost Friday night to Archbishop Wood in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal round.
"There's no crying over here,' he said. "We have nothing to be sad about.'
The Knights' historic 2013 campaign ended on a bitter note, as they dropped a 42-14 decision at Northeast High School.
Against a superior Vikings team, the Knights couldn't get anything going. Devaughn was tasked with filling in at quarterback for starter Brian Ingram, who suffered a season-ending injury in last week's District One championship victory over Glen Mills.
Devaughn, who had a game-changing touchdown a week ago against Glen Mills, knew he had to be fast against a swarming Vikings defense.
"I just wasn't fast enough,' Devaughn said.
Many players who have opposed Wood this season can say the same thing. The Knights struggled to move the ball, as one of the county's most potent offenses was limited to 82 total yards.
"It was hard for me (to become the starting quarterback), but I knew I could do it. I had to step up for my team,' said Devaughn, who had only two passing attempts, but did a decent job managing the offense in his first start under center. "They needed me to play quarterback, and that's what I did. I did it all for my team. They needed me to be here. I didn't make enough plays. Still, we had a good season, you know? I'm proud of my boys. We played our hearts out.'
Even All-Delco Jerry Lanier, who needed 102 yards to become the county's all-time single-season champion, couldn't find a groove. That was due in large part to the Knights' normally reliable and steady offensive line being manhandled by powerful Wood. Lanier finished with 84 yards on 24 carries, falling 17 yards shy of Tony Canci's record of 2,323 yards set at Sun Valley in 2004.
"We knew they had to stop their running game,' said Jarrett McClenton, the Vikings' running back/defensive back who rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown. "They have some great players. If we stopped them, we'd knew we would be all right.'
The Knight went the entire first half without registering a first down and were forced to punt eight times on the night. The only bright spots in the opening half were interceptions from Lanier and Eric Doe. Even with three takeaways, though, the Knights couldn't capitalize. Whatever momentum the defense tried to provide was whittled away with a series of three-and-outs.
"It was more of their execution than anything,' said linebacker Osman Toure, when asked what it was that makes Wood such a dominating team. "They execute better than any team I've ever gone up against.'
Wood scored on its first two possessions. Luke Spahits had the first of his three rushing scores less than two minutes into regulation. After an Academy Park punt, Tom Garlick hooked up with Kendall Singleton for a 39-yard pass-and-catch, and Spahits jolted 13 yards to paydirt for his second score. The Knights had run three offensive plays and were already down, 14-0.
"If we blocked the way we know we could, not knowing anything about (Wood), if we got to the second level, we could do something,' Knights coach Jason Vosheski said. "We never got there, we never got started. I don't know if they did anything different, if they threw in any wrenches into the works, I just think that they won the individual battles. Sometimes, we had to double guys, and when we're doubling people we're leaving other guys wide open. They're too good of a team. ... We can't leave guys unblocked.'
While losing Ingram hamstrung the Knights on offensive, effectively eliminating the threat of the pass, it might not have made a huge difference on the scoreboard. The Knights were constantly trying to evade the oncoming rush of Wood defenders in the backfield as is. It's hard to imagine one player making such a difference against a team of Wood's caliber.
"Brian's a quarterback who is a leader,' Vosheski said. "He's used to being there and the other two guys (Devaughn and Allon Ruffin) are just not. It's a different animal when you have to lead as a wide receiver as opposed to a quarterback.'
Marlin Jackson gave the Knights a boost with a lengthy kickoff return after the Vikings (12-2) scored their sixth and final touchdown. A few plays later, Lanier rushed for his 20th touchdown of the season. He added another one, a 35-yarder, later in the fourth quarter.
The Knights' end the year 10-3 and as District One champions, one year after claiming a Del Val League title. The seniors set a high standard for Academy Park football going forward.
"Every since we were freshmen, we've always wanted to get this far. We didn't want to end here,' Toure said. "We wanted to keep going. I can say we tried hard. I mean, we could've gave a little better effort offensively and defensively, but at the end of the day, I can be satisfied and say that this is a team that made history. We've done a lot for the school and the community. At the end of the day, this isn't really that big of a disappointing (ending) to the season.'