HERSHEY, PA – The first quarter was barely two thirds old and Archbishop Wood had already scored three touchdowns. By halftime, the Vikings had added two more.
Time for the “mercy” rule, put into effect when a team’s advantage has swelled to 35 points. By the time it was over and the boisterous fans who had trekked to Hershey Stadium could leave for a two-plus-hour trip back to Warminster, Archbishop Wood had coasted to a 49-14 victory, a second straight state championship, and fifth title in seven seasons.
“We wanted to keep them off the field,” said coach Steve Devlin. “They got the ball first. We got a big stop and then we just played Wood football. We dominated up front and we got after them with defense . . . just a great game plan we had. The kids executed and did a phenomenal job.”
A 19-yard touchdown run by senior Adrian Lambert with 2:57 into the game gave the Vikings (12-2, winners of 10 straight) a 7-0 lead. A 68-yard haul by senior Nasir Peoples two minutes later doubled the advantage. A one-yard plunge by Peoples to make it 21-0 with 4:22 left was set up by a fourth-down sack at midfield by senior Bill Shaeffer, one of numerous defenders who made life miserable for the 14-2 Gators from Monroeville.
En route to a career high in both rushing attempts and yards gained, Peoples scored yet again on a 14-yard jaunt just 32 seconds into the second quarter. Junior quarterback Jack Colyar, who completed each of his three passes, tossed a perfect six-yard strike to senior Kyle Pitts with 5:19 remaining in the first half.
Pitts also contributed two interceptions while junior Kevin Otto added a team-best fourth theft. The defensive line made things absolutely miserable for the high-scoring Gators.
“It’s amazing,” said first-team All-Catholic center Tommy Walsh. “I can’t believe it. Last year . . . going out 49-14 . . . it’s the best feeling ever. This is huge. This was our goal from the beginning of the year to the end of the year – to win a state championship. We did it. We accomplished our goal. I’ll remember this forever.”
Peoples finished with 267 yards on 25 carries. For the season, the soft-spoken Virginia Tech University signee finished with 1,838 yards and 30 touchdowns, 29 rushing and one via a punt return.
Lambert also enjoyed a career-best 101 yards rushing on a career-high 10 carries. His two touchdowns gave him five over the past three games. Junior kicker Bob Hennessey drilled seven straight extra points.
“I’m so proud of all our guys,” said Colyar. “This is what our goal was and we’re finally here and we accomplished it. Our motto is just to stay hungry. Our offensive line is the best line I’ve ever seen. The way they’re coached, the way they practice, and the way they work is phenomenal.”
The Vikings’ confidence increased as the contest approached. They felt like there was nothing Gateway could show that would come as a surprise.
“All the preparation throughout the week of practice,” said All-Catholic lineman Albert Glasgow. “From the practice to film to lifting . . . everything goes into it. Our scout team gives us a great look every week.”
Devlin enjoyed an opportunity to allow more players a chance to shine.
“These kids sacrifice a lot,” said Devlin. “You get the second group in and the seniors in and all the young kids . . . try to get them a couple of clips on a state championship field on state championship night. They can say for the rest of their life that they played in the state championship.”
Devlin had been showered with ice water with less than a minute remaining. He was still wet after the game. And he was also something else.
“I’m cold,” he deadpanned. “I’m cold.”
Taking an ice bath in 25 degrees never felt better.
(John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)