By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA—It’s rare today when a team can go from start to finish, lugging high expectations and weighted goals, and do almost exactly everything it sets out to do. It doesn’t matter what level of sport it is. There is pressure involved, the human element and psychological intensity to keep trudging forward.
Archbishop Wood’s football did just that this season. The Vikings’ 14-1 finish and PIAA Class AAA state championship makes them a team for the ages, in there in the argument with the great St. James team of 1972, La Salle’s dynasty that won consecutive Catholic League championships and the Central Bucks West teams of the late-1990s.
Wood deserves to be on that list—as this year’s unquestionable Team of the Year.
Wood finished this season as the best team in the state, despite its Class AAA classification. Consider the following: Class AAAA state champion Central Dauphin finished 15-1, its one defeat coming against Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg). Wood beat McDevitt by the largest point difference in the 24-year history of the Pennsylvania state championships, 52-0.
By the end of the season, no team was better in Pennsylvania than Archbishop Wood.
“It was about staying focused and moving forward, keeping goals in mind and never losing focus on what we wanted to do this year,” Vikings’ coach Steve Devlin said after the state title game. “I never let up. We practiced like we never won a game. But this team also accepted being pushed. They welcomed the challenges we put out there for them, and each time there was a new challenge, these guys stepped up and conquered it. They’re a group of guys I’ll never forget.”
It was a star-studded team that kept a great balance and egos in check.
“It’s one thing no one ever had to worry about us, we were all in this together and we all had one goal in mind, that was to win the state championship,” said Colin Thompson, Wood’s tight end who’s committed to Florida—and plans on keeping his commitment, he said, despite the attention he received during the state championship game from new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
“I’ll never forget these guys, ever,” Thompson said. “We all backed each other, we had supported each other from the first day to the last, and the thing I liked I think the most is the work ethic. Everyone on this team busted their butts. No one ever let up.”
The Vikings ended their season by “mercy ruling” their last 13 opponents (when a team is ahead by 35 points or more after the first half, the remainder of the game is played with a running clock). They finished the year outscoring their opponents by a cumulative 672 points to 124.
The 52-point difference is the state championship game was a state record. It marked the largest margin of victory in the 24-year history of the PIAA state championship game—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).
“I don’t know where we rank all-time,” said Brandon Peoples, Wood’s explosive tailback who finished with a game-high 171 yards rushing in the state title game. “But I think we have to be there, people will look back on this team and shake their heads. There may not be another team like us.”
There may not.