By Joseph Pawlikowski
Special to The CS&T
Archbishop Wood High School’s football team manhandled opponents all year with its size and running game. Last Friday in the state final, Thomas Jefferson gave them a taste of their own medicine.
Amidst freezing conditions at Hersheypark Stadium, Jefferson’s Jaguars won 34-7, making fewer mistakes than the Vikings, who turned the ball over four times. They were also able to contain Wood’s standout running back Sean Cunningham, holding him to just 34 yards on 12 carries.
Wood’s head coach Steve Devlin knew Jefferson would be tough competition. “We knew they had size and that we would have to battle. We still ran the ball well at times, we just didn’t take advantage of a few opportunities,” he said.
This was the first appearance for a Catholic League school in a state championship and despite the loss, Wood had an incredible season. The Vikings’ only regular season loss was to West Catholic, who also made an appearance in the state final in their respective Class AA spanision, but lost.
These Catholic League teams proved they could play among the best teams in the state, and Devlin was extremely proud of his team for that.
“The kids are absolute winners,” he said. “One game where we made a few mistakes certainly does not define our whole season.”
While Devlin expressed how proud he was of his team, he also regretted the missed opportunity to bring home a state championship for his seniors. “They are a big part of the program, and it is really a shame they can’t get another shot. They worked hard from day one and deserved to win this game,” he said.
The Vikings dug themselves a hole after fumbling the opening kickoff. Jefferson recovered the ball at Wood’s 26-yard line, and two plays later, they were up 7-0. Wood was in unfamiliar territory, having to play catch up throughout the entire game.
Quarterback Sean McCartney struggled, throwing three interceptions, but managed to run the ball fairly well and threw an outstanding 26-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Narisi to cut Jefferson’s lead to 14-7 early in the second quarter.
Jefferson fumbled on the ensuing drive but was able to recover the ball. They proceeded to run downfield for another touchdown, making the score 21-7. Wood needed to answer but unfortunately went three-and-out, punting the ball back to Jefferson.
Jefferson scored again and it was 28-7, a difficult deficit to overcome for a running team like Wood.
Although the contest ended with a loss for Wood, the Vikings did a fine job of representing the Catholic League this season. In its first season of eligibility for state championship play, Wood proved the Catholic League’s elite can play with any team in the state, and that in itself is a great achievement.
Joseph Pawlikowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.