By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS)—It happened a couple of years ago but it still has to linger just a bit for Bishop McDevitt of Harrisburg, LeSean “Shady” McCoy’s alma mater.
In 2011, Archbishop Wood had a team for the ages, smashing almost every team in its path toward the school’s first PIAA Class AAA state championship. The Vikings put the exclamation point on that year with a resounding state-record 52-0 victory over McDevitt.
The 52-point difference is still the largest margin of victory in any game at any level in the 25-year history of the PIAA state football championships (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).
On Friday night at 7 p.m., don’t think McDevitt (14-1) would not like to avenge that sore moment when it takes on Wood for the second time in three years for the PIAA Class AAA state championship, at Hersheypark Stadium.
Both teams are loaded again with talent, though this version of Wood is not exactly the 2011 model (then again, what team from Southeastern Pa. could match up, other than possibly the 1972 St. James team that starred Joe Klecko and Joe Gallagher).
Still, Wood continues to be dominant. The Vikings are averaging 40.2 points a game, having amassed 563 points this season (which is tied for 106th in state history with the 2000 Manheim Central Barons, according to pafootballnews.com).
Wood’s bullish offensive line features senior Deion Oliver (6-6, 288), along with juniors Ryan Bates (6-5, 285), Shawn Scroger (6-3, 260), Tom Cardozo (6-1, 225), Ryan Neher (6-3, 248) and junior tight end Jake Cooper (6-3, 230). It’s a large mobile unit that’s enabled junior running back Jarrett McClenton to score 30 touchdowns.
Sophomore quarterback Tom Garlick manages the offense. He’s 23-4 as a starter for the Vikings, who are still very much a rushing team. Still, Garlick has passed this season for 1,305 yards and 15 TDs, according to Tedsilary.com, and reaches the state title game for the second-straight time.
Wood’s defense gave up 31 points once this season, and that came in a 31-21 loss to St. Joe’s Prep on Oct. 5. Throughout the Vikings’ five playoff victories, Wood has yielded 13.6 points a game—much of that coming in junk moments with the games well decided.
Over the last three years, Wood has lost only once to a Class AAA team. That came in last year’s state championship to Erie Cathedral Prep, 24-14. Otherwise, no Class AAA team in the state has been able to hang with the Vikings.
If Wood wins, the Vikings will become the first District 12 football team that’s won multiple state titles.
McDevitt is making its third appearance in the state finals in the last four years. But the Crusaders have not won a state title since 1995, when they won the Class AA.
The Crusaders will rely heavily on junior tailback Andre Robinson, who’s rushed for 2,276 yards and 29 TDs, according to pafootballnews.com. Robinson will be teamed with Rashad Lawson (1,069 YDs, 19 TDs) making the Crusaders the fourth program with a 2,000/1,000 backfield to reach the PIAA championship game, joining the 2005 Southern Columbia Tigers, 2002 Parkland Trojans and 1998 Central Bucks West Bucks (according to pafootballnews.com). The previous three teams finished undefeated and won PIAA state titles.
Wood is looking to buck that trend. Here’s saying the Vikings will. McDevitt is vulnerable to the run and it feeds right into the teeth of Wood’s strength. Plus, a consistent ground attack will keep Robinson and Lawson off the field.
Prediction: Archbishop Wood 30, Bishop McDevitt 23
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.