By: John Knebels
WARMINSTER, PA -- Comeuppance. It’s what happens when a reporter goes out on a limb and makes a public prediction that turns out to be, umm, a tad off.
After Archbishop Wood defeated Archbishop Ryan, 27-7, in an oft-sloppy but generally entertaining Catholic League Red Division football contest at George Washington High School, several Vikings had a good time playfully chiding a reporter who, several days earlier, had prophesied a different result.
“We were angry all week,” said Wood senior middle linebacker Dylan Urbanowski. “But we came out today and kept feeding the fire. We came out playing angry. Our team communicates very well. We stuck to our tendencies. We believed in our coaches. We came out and executed.”
Wood junior Tom Santiago was a tank on offense, getting as much from his 185-pound frame as humanly possible. The soft-spoken tailback carried the ball 31 times and finished with, well, no one is quite sure.
Wood senior MLB Dylan Urbanowski said his team used a naysayer's prediction as fuel on gameday (video interview - John Knebels).
Thanks to the archaic conditions of GW’s field, “replete” with yardage markers on walls that are hidden by players on the sidelines and cheerleaders about 20 feet further back, several reporters noticed discrepancies with their final statistics.
While a definitive total would have to be proven by watching the game tape, Santiago rushed for two touchdowns and a career-best real estate of somewhere between 251 and 270 yards. There was no doubt, however, that he scored what proved to be the winning touchdown on a 76-yard burst down the left sideline with 2:15 left in the first quarter.
The TD gave Wood a 13-7 lead and answered Ryan’s lone offensive success just 1:31 prior, a 30-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jahlil Sanders to sophomore sensation Tyreek Chappell (six catches for 129 yards).
Wood had jumped in front three plays into the game when senior Leroy Pendleton rumbled 71 yards to the end zone.
“We just played well on both sides of the ball,” said Santiago. “The offensive line opened up holes. On the long touchdown, I just followed my blocks and kept running. It’s a great feeling knowing that no one is able to catch you as you see the end zone.”
Santiago scored again on a 15-yard run with 7:46 remaining in regulation to make it 19-7. A 21-yard scoring toss from senior quarterback Jake Ross to senior tight end Billy Cook and a two-point conversion run by Santiago iced the victory.
The real story of the Vikings’ victory, however, was their defensive prowess.
Although Wood first-year coach Kyle Adkins admitted that he was not enthralled with the Vikings’ defense, the Vikings executed when it mattered most.
They held a Ryan offense averaging more than 40 points per game to one touchdown – none over the final three-plus quarters – and a miserly 36 yards rushing on 28 attempts.
“Coming in, we knew it was going to be a tough game,” said two-way senior lineman Connor Bishop.
“Ryan versus Wood is pretty much always a tough game. Even though the score doesn’t reflect it, it was still pretty tough.”
“We knew it would be hard fought and muddy. We’re definitely not happy with our performance and we’re gonna play them again in five weeks, but all in all, it was a good day. We’ve played against high-powered offenses throughout our first four games. We thought we were prepared.”
Wood senior two-way lineman Connor Bishop said the Vikings were ready to play a hungry Ryan team (video interview- John Knebels).
Indeed, players from both teams will need a copious supply of bleach to get rid of the stains that dotted their uniforms head to toe. Loud, violent hits were consistent throughout the slugfest.
But the Vikings and Raiders had to remain focused regardless of fatigue or gnawing aches. That’s a particularly difficult challenge to overcome for two-way starting linemen like Wood senior Luke Stengel.
“It’s tiring, but you just gotta find the will,” said Stengel. “Sometimes if you’re going on a long drive, you have to go back on defense. You gotta get that will; gotta get that energy in you. You just keep going.”
Stengel said the Vikings respected Ryan’s sizzling offense.
“We knew we had a good defense,” said Stengel. “We went through all their plays all week. Knew what they were going to run. It was really just preparation.”
Wood senior Luke Stengel admits that playing full-time on both offense and defense can be challenging (video interview - John Knebels).
Adkins was asked about the importance of the win and how concerned he had been with Ryan’s offense.
“We worry about ourselves (rather) than the opponent,” said Adkins.
“The old adage ‘it’s a faceless opponent.’ We’re still not satisfied defensively. There are entirely too many breakdowns. We have to clean those things up.”
Although the entire Wood defense stood tall, particularly strong performances were turned in by Urbanowski, Bishop, senior linebacker Brett Gross, junior safety Ryan DiVergilis, and senior cornerback Kevin Otto.
Wood head coach Kyle Adkins attacks this game like every other with improvements to be made (video interview - John Knebels).
The Vikings won’t be able to rest on their laurels. Next up at 1 PM Saturday is undefeated and two-time defending champion St. Joseph’s Prep, followed by rugged LaSalle six days later.
As for a prediction of the Vikings’ upcoming bout with the Prep?
Not falling for that twice.
(John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)