By John Knebels
Special to The CS&T
Before last year, not many Archbishop Wood football fans had ever heard of a school called Selinsgrove.
Now it’s a little more well known.
For the second consecutive year Wood met Selinsgrove in the PIAA Class AAA state semifinal at Hersheypark Stadium. And by now, everyone associated with the Vikings knows they lost to the Seals 28-0 last Saturday and were left with the challenge of finding the proverbial silver lining in defeat.
That task wasn’t easy. Over time, the players who helped build an 11-3 record (and an 11-game winning streak) will recognize that capturing a second-consecutive Catholic League AAA championship and District 12 title certainly qualifies as a successful and outstanding season. Without a doubt, the Wood coaching staff reminded them about that in the somber post-game talk.
But after the game, the players obviously didn’t feel like celebrating. And for those who tried to point out that Wood had become the only team this year to pass for triple digits (160 yards on 12 completions) against the defensive stalwarts of Selinsgrove, or that Selinsgrove was now 15-0 and an overwhelming favorite to win the state crown, the rationale did not help.
“For the seniors, this was our last chance,” said quarterback Jerry Rahill, who completed seven passes for 98 yards to junior receiver Sam McCain. “We were part of something very special. I just wish it could have ended with a state championship.”
Wood coach Steve Devlin, who labeled Rahill “one of the greatest kids I’ve (ever) been around,” was immediately able to see how much his players accomplished this fall.
“I’m proud of the kids,” said Devlin. “They fought hard. They won a lot of games. They did a great job.”
Devlin, who did a marvelous job of keeping the Vikings confident after a tough 0-2 start and then emotionally grounded as the victories began to mount, wasn’t surprised to see the display of emotion from many of his players after the loss.
“We believed that we would win the game. When you fall short of your goals, it hurts,” he said.
Another area team can totally relate to Wood’s collective angst, but the major difference was that this squad had a state title within its grasp until the final minute.
In West Catholic’s 23-21 heartbreaking loss to Lancaster Catholic in the PIAA Class AA state semifinal at Coatesville High Dec. 12, the Burrs grabbed a 21-17 lead with 7:31 remaining in regulation when junior Brandon Hollomon raced 49 yards for a touchdown.
But Lancaster Catholic (14-1) engineered an agonizing 10-play drive to clutch victory from the despondent Burrs (12-3) with only 1:01 left in the game.
“I feel really sad,” said West Catholic quarterback Jarred Evans, whose 10 completions went for 136 yards and a touchdown to Jim Lynch. He also scored on a five-yard run. “To lose this way…”
Evans’ voice trailed off and wasn’t quite loud enough to hear. In light of the game that had just finished, it was strangely appropriate.
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.