John Knebels

John Knebels

Just way too powerful.

That was the realistic consensus of Archbishop Wood’s 37-0 demolition of overmatched Academy Park Dec. 2 at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School. The Vikings’ victory catapulted them into this Friday night’s PIAA Class 5A state championship against Harrisburg in Hershey.

While winning their 10th straight decision, the Vikings (10-2-1) started early and never let up. They forged a 17-0 lead in the first quarter behind two seven-yard touchdown runs by senior Raheem Blackshear sandwiched by senior Dan Zanine’s 26-yard field goal.

The Vikings’ offense remained unstoppable in the second quarter. A pair of touchdown drives were culminated by one-yard plunges by Blackshear (178 yards on 20 carries) and sophomore quarterback Jack Colyar, respectively. After Colyar (7 for 13, 111 yards, one touchdown) connected with senior tight end Kyle Pitts (4 catches for 67 yards) on a 16-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, the rest of the game was conducted with a running clock.


“It was important to get a lead and then control the clock,” said Wood coach Steve Devlin. “It was to our advantage that they had to play from behind.”

The Vikings will be facing a District 3 Harrisburg team (10-3) that upended District 7 juggernaut West Allegheny, which had been a perfect 13-0 before losing, 42-10. Anthony Diodato, a first-team All Catholic at both offensive and defensive line, said he and his team don’t necessarily focus on another team’s resume.

“Our strategy is to just keep playing tough and with high intensity every play,” he said. “Harrisburg has a ton of really good athletes on their team that have to be accounted for. If we continue to play tough with high intensity, I think we will be fine.”

After a 0-2-1 start, Wood has regained its sense of urgency and confidence, hallmarks of a program trying to snare its fourth state crown in six years and third in the past four.

“We started off slow and lost two games and it hurt us as a whole,” said senior running back Shawn Thompson, who had collected 412 yards and five touchdowns on 20 carries in Wood’s two previous games. “We were able to get back on track. We all came together and became a lot closer as a team.”


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