Published: Saturday, September 01, 2012
SHARON HILL — Jerry Lanier’s night had all the makings of a disaster Friday.
There was a fumble that was scooped up and returned for a touchdown … to put his team down two scores … in his first varsity start.
It could’ve gone sideways for the Academy Park junior. Instead, he responded in a big way.
Lanier’s next carry after Marple Newtown’s Joe Vegso returned his fumble 55 yards for a score in the second quarter was a 41-yard, cut-back dash. It was part of a 23-carry, 141-yard evening that included one touchdown and the heavy lifting on another scoring drive as Academy Park claimed a 29-20 nonleague win.
From a crowded field of backfield contenders, Lanier’s opening varsity foray has put his name firmly on the job. He showed elusiveness, best displayed on his 41-yard scamper that included a couple of cutbacks. And for a game in which Marple Newtown players seemed to be dropping like flies with cramping issues, Lanier proved to be a workhorse for the Knights.
“I was a little nervous a little bit,” Lanier said. “It was my first varsity game. I had to suck it up, but my team had faith in me. And I did it.”
Lanier’s fumble was one of a precious few miscues by Academy Park, which was gifted time and again with Marple Newtown missteps. In a sequence that epitomized the Tigers’ woes in the kicking game, Marple went from punting near midfield to surrendering a safety, thanks to back-to-back fair-catch interference penalties and a botched punt snap.
Another bad punt snap put Academy Park in business at the 5, a drive finished off by Lanier’s 2-yard scoring run for a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. And when Marple finally managed to get a kick away, it was right at Marlin Jackson, who tip-toed down the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown that broke the Tigers’ backs and set the final margin.
“We put a lot of time into it, and it just didn’t pan out,” said Marple Newtown coach Ray Gionta, who added that he had never seen back-to-back calls like that. “… I think that’s just that the kids were tired and not up for it. It’s not for a lack of trying or anything like that.”
Things started out brightly enough for Marple, which staked itself to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter thanks to a 12-yard run by Anthony Rosanio on a drive set up by Rosanio’s interception. But the tide began to turn as Lanier began to heat up. The defense followed suit.
Part of the improvement was due to Vosheski and his staff altering the schemes of his defense to better suit a Marple offense that got 61 yards from Mike White in the first half. The other part was Academy Park’s front seven upping its game, starting with ball hawk Jamar Dembry.
Dembry had four tackles for loss in the second half, including a 10-yard sack of Marple Newtown quarterback Tom Davis that officially doused an already flickering comeback attempt.
“We just had to stay together,” Dembry said. “We didn’t bring anyone down. We just stayed up and stayed together.”
The Knights’ offense did what it needed to, despite not getting its first first down of the second half until 7:38 remained in the game. Quarterback Tyler Street, in addition to a pair of one-yard rushing touchdowns, was on the money with his arm from time to time, including a 38-yard hook-up with Earl Hargrove and a 36-yard post-pattern connection with Brian Ingram to help run the clock out late.