After losing its second straight game back in September, a 43-24 disappointment against eventual undefeated, Class 6A state champion St. Joseph’s Prep, several Archbishop Wood players pledged that they would eventually leave a legacy.
On Friday night, Dec. 9 in Hershey, they fulfilled their promise.
Taking advantage of a torrid, unstoppable running game to capture their 11th straight victory, Archbishop Wood stunned Harrisburg, 37-10, to win the PIAA Class 5A state crown – the Vikings’ third in four years and fourth in six.
On 52 play calls, sophomore quarterback Jack Colyar handed the pigskin to either Raheem Blackshear or Shawn Thompson, and Harrisburg (11-4) was unable to stop either. Blackshear was the main workhorse, collecting 243 yards and three touchdowns on 35 rushes; Thompson took full advantage of his 19 opportunities, amassing 133 yards and one score.
“We all played together as one,” said Thompson. “Harrisburg was a very good team. We did not want to lose – that was our mindset. We were not gonna let anyone stop us.”
Considering the Vikings’ uncharacteristic 0-2-1 early record, it was perhaps symbolic that Harrisburg seized a 7-0 lead on a 71-yard pass play. Even more symbolic? The Vikings responded with a pair of first-quarter touchdowns – the first on a 10-yard pass from Colyar to junior tight end Kyle Pitts; the second, a two-yard run by Blackshear.
After the teams traded field goals – including a 26-yard boot by Wood senior Dan Zanine – Wood took a tenuous 17-10 lead into halftime.
After a 10-yard touchdown run by Blackshear supplied some breathing room at 23-10, the Vikings diffused any remaining suspense on fourth-quarter TD runs by Blackshear (four yards) and Thompson, a 35-yard jaunt.
During Wood’s five-game march to the title, the Vikings outscored the opposition by 232 to 48. Although Colyar threw 21 touchdown passes, it was the running game that solidified the Vikings’ stronghold against Class 5A competition. Thompson gained 1,310 yards and 20 touchdowns on 142 carries; Blackshear 1,257 yards and 25 touchdowns on 147.
Anytime two running backs combine for 2,567 yards and 45 touchdowns, a stud-filled offensive line is close by. For the Vikings, that would be junior center Tom Walsh; guards Matt Arcidiacono (senior) and Connor Bishop (sophomore); and tackles Anthony Diodato (senior) and Albert Glasgow (junior).
Diodato also plays tackle for an underclassman-laden defensive unit that includes both Blackshear and Webb at cornerback; Pitts, junior Adrian Lambert, and senior Rhys Vaughn at end; junior Tom Walsh and junior Bill Shaeffer at tackle; juniors Matt Palmer and Tyler Smith at linebacker; and junior Nasir Peoples and senior Dan Freeman at safety.
“Even though they had the big touchdown pass, I don’t think anyone was worried,” said Diodato. “They had a ton of talent, but we knew that if we played our game and focused on technique and playing our game, we would be fine.”
As for that 0-2-1 start?
“I think we just all realized that we had to work harder than we had been if we wanted to accomplish our goal,” said Diodato. “The goal was to win a state championship.”
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.