PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–Steve Devlin hears all of the talk and the speculation. Predictions are great this time of season. Especially when you have five Division-I players on your team, as the Archbishop Wood coach has this year.

Sure, Devlin is excited, as are the Vikings. They’re everyone’s choice to play deep into December, and are arguably the best team in Pennsylvania. But Allentown Central Catholic, the defending PIAA Class AAA state champion, is looming, as is state finalist Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg), which features one of the nation’s elite, Noah Spence, who has Philadelphia roots.

“I’ve always gone with the same approach for years,” said Devlin, whose team is rated No. 1 by MaxPreps/CBS in Pennsylvania. “That’s to take it slow and don’t look too far ahead. We’re excited, there’s no doubt about that. But every once in a while, we of course have to remind the kids not to read the press clippings. We have great, talented kids that are buying into the team approach.”

Leading that team will unsung senior quarterback Joe Monaghan. He’s not going to completely dominate a game, like Allentown Central Catholic’s Brendan Nosovitch, who’s headed to South Carolina, but he’s a heady player who does all the little things to win.

“Joe’s been starting for us since his sophomore year, when he came on and played three games, winning all of them,” Devlin said. “We’re depending greatly on players like Joe, because we’ll have our hands full playing a great schedule with a couple of sophomores and juniors we’re asking to step forward and help us. But Joe’s definitely the captain, and I wouldn’t trade him for anyone.”

Top 10

1. Archbishop Wood

2. West Catholic

3. North Penn

4. LaSalle

5. Council Rock South

6. Downingtown East

7. Neshaminy

8. Malvern Prep

9. Cardinal O’Hara

10. Roman Catholic

1. Archbishop Wood: There’s no truth to the rumor that Wood was down at the NovaCare Complex a few weeks ago scrimmaging the Eagles. But the Vikings are without question the best team in Southeastern Pennsylvania, among the top two or three teams in the state, and one of the top teams in the country. Wood features five Division-I recruits in seniors Colin Thompson (Florida), Brandon Arcidiacono (Rutgers), Desmon Peoples (Rutgers), Brandon Peoples (Temple) and Frank Taylor (Boston College). They’re huge (Thompson, Arcidiacono and Taylor each tip the scales at 260 or better), explosive (the Peoples, who are cousins), and athletic (pretty much everyone on the team). Quarterbacking this group is gutsy, feisty Joe Monaghan, a no-nonsense leader who led the Vikings to the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals last year.

The looming problem for the Vikings will come later, if things go as planned. Wood reached the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals last year, where the Vikings lost to Brendan Nosovitch and eventual state champion Allentown Central Catholic. Nosovitch, bound for South Carolina, and most of that team is back, as is a loaded Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg), the alma mater of Eagles’ tailback Shady McCoy. Central Catholic, from Pittsburgh, also returns quite a bit from its state semifinal team of a year ago. In fact, the best teams in Pennsylvania could be at the Class AAA level, where Wood resides.

2. West Catholic: The Burrs blistered through almost everything in their path last season. West Catholic finished 13-2 overall and won the PIAA Class AA state championship with a state-record setting 50-14 pummeling of South Fayette last season. It’s likely the Burrs could be heading back. West Catholic was slightly stung by a handful of transfers out, but return one of the best backs in not only Southeastern Pennsylvania, but in the state in 6-foot, 190-pound junior David Williams. The offense will center once again on Williams, who rushed for 927 yards and 17 touchdowns last year, and is already getting major Division-I interest. Coach Brian Fluck says without hesitation that Williams is ahead of former West Catholic and current San Diego Charger Curtis Brinkley. The Burrs won’t get any breaks this season. Fluck has loaded the schedule, opening with Roman Catholic, then it’s Wood on September 10, followed by LaSalle on September 16 and Haverford School on September 23. Wood, LaSalle and Haverford School all won their respective league titles last year.

3. North Penn: The Knights are always solid, physical, and they return with a pair of prime senior players in linebacker Ralph Reeves, a four-year starter, and quarterback Corey Ernst, who threw for close to 2,000 and over 20 touchdowns last year. This is a team looking for some payback from two previous season. The Knights were manhandled by Ridley in the District 1 championship in 2009 and lost a classic to LaSalle in the PIAA Class AAAA state semifinals last year, 38-35. North Penn is 40-4 over the last three seasons with no state championship to show for it. It’s a deep, well-coached, talented team with an attitude.

4. LaSalle: As long as Drew Gordon is in charge with the system they run at LaSalle, the Explorers will always be a state-level team. The Explorers were PIAA Class AAAA state finalists last year, after winning the Class AAAA state title in 2009. A wealth of talent returns at the skill positions, where senior quarterback Matt Magarity returns. He’ll have some talent around him senior running back Tim Wade, junior receiver Sean Coleman, and senior receiver Colin Buckley. Senior linebacker Sean Burke anchors the defense.

5. Council Rock South: The Hawks experienced a historic season last year going 11-2 overall, the best record in the nine-year history of the school. The scary thing is this season, Council Rock South could possibly top that. The Hawks return a vast array in talent with eight starters back on offense and seven on defense. Heading the list of elite returnees is 6-foot-4, 235-pound Maryland commit P.J. Gallo. The Hawks run an intricate triple-option offense that causes headaches for every team that faces them. Orchestrating that chaos is senior quarterback Brian Donnelly, who will have running backs Anthony Alimenti, Ryan Hickey, Ryan Whiteley, Ian McDermott and Cory Wilkenson to work the option.

6. Downingtown East: The Cougars will pound, pound, pound stellar 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior tailback Drew Harris. Add into the mix 14 starters back from a team that finished tied for the Ches-Mont League championship with Coatesville and Downingtown East promises to be among the top teams again in Southeastern Pennsylvania. If Harris comes anywhere close to the 27 touchdowns and over 1,900 yards rushing he achieved as a junior, the Cougars could make some serious noise in the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs.

7. Neshaminy: Figure the Redskins to be in the running for the District 1 Class AAAA title with North Penn, Council Rock South and Downingtown East. But they first out of escape a league that also includes Council Rock South, Pennsbury, and Penn State-bound JJ Denman, and very good Abington team that went 10-3 last year. The Suburban One National Division is the toughest in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Senior tailback Sean Ulmer will carry the load for the Redskins, after rushing for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, with the help of pair of talented receivers in Bobby Martarella and Justin Andrews.

8. Malvern Prep: There won’t be too much mystery in the way the Friars come at teams this season, especially with behemoths Michael Mooney and Connor Mahoney leading the way. Mooney, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound offensive/defensive tackle, has already committed to Virginia, and Mahoney, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound guard/defensive end, is headed to Northwestern. Senior tailback Shawn Wilson and senior quarterback Tom Rumor should bolster good numbers with the help of their large friends up front. Mark the date Friday, November 4, 7 p.m. when the Friars host two-time defending champion Haverford School. The Fords have beaten traditionally powerful Malvern Prep the previous two years (14-7 last year and 17-14 on a last-second 40-yard field goal by Aron Morgan in 2009).

9. Cardinal O’Hara: The Lions will be young, predominantly sophomores and juniors, but they’ll also feature the explosive backfield of Damiere Shaw and Jay Watkins. Shaw, a Temple commit, missed the final four games of last season, including two against powerhouse Archbishop Wood, recovering from a concussion. A healthy Shaw and a team that promises to mature as the season progresses could make the October 29th meeting with Wood an interesting one.

10. Roman Catholic: Junior quarterback Mike Keir showed great potential last year starting as a sophomore, throwing for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns, and he’ll have a prime target in 6-foot-4 junior receiver William Fuller. Roman grad Joe McCourt has gradually built the Cahillites back into winners. Expect this year to be a step up from last season’s 8-4 overall finish. Standing in Roman’s way is defending league champion LaSalle and Penn State-bound Skyler Mornhinweg and St. Joseph’s Prep.

Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito

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