By Joseph Santoliquito
HERSHEY, Pa.—There was only one goal this season for Archbishop Wood. Nothing else mattered. Nothing less would be acceptable. It was a simple yet daunting aim, reaching into an area no other Wood team had ventured into before—and that was winning a PIAA state football championship.
From August, the talk was loud and it built into an even larger crescendo the deeper the Vikings went into the season.
How often does it happen that high expectations come to fruition? Regardless of the level of sports. How often do dream seasons get realized?
Friday night, the Vikings went out and did what everyone, including themselves, expected to do. They realized a dream and won the school’s first state football championship, crushing a good Bishop McDevitt team (from Harrisburg, the alma mater of Eagles’ tailback LeSean McCoy), 52-0 at Hersheypark Stadium in the Class AAA state championship.
The 52-point difference was a state record. It marked the largest margin of victory in the 24-year history of the PIAA state championship—and it was the exclamation point that topped Wood’s amazing season (Central Bucks West’s 49-point difference in its 56-7 victory over New Castle in the 1998 Class AAAA final was the previous largest margin of victory).
The Vikings “mercy ruled” their last 13 opponents. They finished the year 14-1, outscoring their opponents by a cumulative 672 points to 124.
“I think I’ll remember these guys forever,” Wood coach Steve Devlin said. “I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, I never saw a team like them. It’s the greatest bunch of kids I’ve ever been around. They’re special, and they finished by something very special.”
It also confirmed this Wood team will go down as a team for the ages when it comes to gauging the greatest high school football teams from the Philadelphia area.
“To be honest, for the seniors, there was never any doubt, we thought we could win the state championship from Day One, but this team stayed determined,” Wood quarterback Joey Monaghan said. “This team practiced just as hard the first day of the season until yesterday preparing for this game. I think I’ll always remember what a special group this was and what we did. It’s something we’ll always have together.”
Woods’ Brandon Peoples, bound for Temple, finished with a game-high 171 yards and three touchdowns on runs of 30, 67 and six yards, while his cousin, Desmon, rushed for 151 yards and scored on runs of 54 and one yard. Brandon and Desmon combined for 322 of Wood’s 343 yards rushing in the game. McDevitt had just 20 yards rushing—and minus-6 yards rushing at halftime.
“We set a standard, and it was a high standard,” Brandon Peoples said. “Desmon is my cousin, but he’s more like my brother. I’m always over his house, or he’s always over mine. This means everything to share this with him. It means everything to share it with this whole team.”
It was a thoroughly dominating performance by the Vikings, who led 31-0 at halftime and had amassed 211 yards on the ground. With 5:37 left in the third quarter, the mercy rule was instituted when Wood’s Andrew Guckin went 75 yards with an interception return for a touchdown and a 38-0 Wood lead.
With new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer watching, along with assistants Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel, Wood pounded away for 391 total yards of offense against a defense led by one of the nation’s best defensive ends, Noah Spence. But it was Wood’s Colin Thompson, bound for Florida, the Peoples cousins and the Wood team that may have gained some added attention from Meyer and his onlooking staff. After the game, Meyer walked over to Desmon Peoples and asked if he was still going to Rutgers. Meyer did walk away with something–Spence will be visiting Ohio State on Saturday with Meyer as his tour guide.
“We had a goal in the beginning of the season, that was to win the state title,” Thompson said. “We finally can say we did it.”