Arch­bishop Wood’s re­struc­tured ap­proach able to take down La Salle.

Ground game dif­fer­ence for Vik­ings

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE - By An­drew Robin­son arobin­son@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @ADRobin­son3 on Twit­ter

FORT WASH­ING­TON >> Arch­bishop Wood and La Salle had a cou­ple things in com­mon when they took the field Fri­day night.

Both teams had lost to St. Joe’s Prep in PCL play and nei­ther team’s cur­rent setup on of­fense re­sem­bled the plans the re­spec­tive teams had in pre­sea­son. An early sea­son in­jury to both team’s start­ing quar­ter­backs caused things to get shuf­fled so they had to ad­just on the fly.

For Wood, that meant lean­ing even more on the ground game and it showed as the Vik­ings topped La Salle 31-12 on Fri­day at Up­per Dublin High School.

“I felt like we dom­i­nated their de­fen­sive line,” Wood cen­ter Luke Sten­gel said. “We were pre­pared for it. We al­ways say we’re the hard­est work­ing team on the field all the time, so when we fig­ured out we were go­ing to run the ball more, we were ex­cited.”

Wood won the coin toss and opted to re­ceive on Fri­day and went right to work with that run-heavy of­fense. The Vik­ings marched down the field on 10 plays, all runs, and capped the drive when quar­ter­back Jake Ross plunged in from a yard out.

Ross started the sea­son at wide re­ceiver, but af­ter start­ing quar­ter­back Jack Col­yar was in­jured in the sea­son opener, he took over un­der cen­ter. Ross hasn’t been asked to do too much, throw­ing just 12 passes on Fri­day, but he’s adapted well to the po­si­tion and is show­ing more and more pol­ish with each pass­ing week.

“We had a great first drive, hit a few bumps but Coach (Kyle Ad­kins) talked to us at half­time, we ad­justed a few things and ran smoothly from there,” Ross said. “We’ve put guys in the right places and got­ten a lot of reps at prac­tices so it’s been go­ing well. We’re not throw­ing as much, but when we do, the re­ceivers are mak­ing plays.”

La Salle lost its start­ing quar­ter­back, Jack Ma­chita, in the sec­ond week and has turned to se­nior Sean Daly to fill the void. Daly, a con­verted tail­back, has played hard since tak­ing over and gave the Ex­plor­ers a jolt with a 54-yard touch­down run af­ter Wood’s open­ing drive. Daly looked to have an­other huge run later in the

first half, but it was called back for a hold­ing flag, a call that Ex­plor­ers coach John Stein­metz felt was a turn­ing point. La Salle was also with­out its start­ing cen­ter due to a con­cus­sion as the game went on, the Ex­plor­ers just didn’t have much room or time to make plays on of­fense.

“Wood is a very phys­i­cal foot­ball team and they kind of laid into us a lit­tle bit, they have a great run­ning game,” Stein­metz said. “In the early go­ing we looked pretty good, then we had the penalty on that long run and never got the wind back in our sails there.”

La Salle missed the ex­tra point on its first touch­down, then had a two-point try picked off on its sec­ond touch­down which al­lowed Wood to go into the half up 14-12. The Vik­ings’ sec­ond score game on the first of two Ross to Bill Cook touch­down passes, a six-yard flick and catch on first-and-goal.

Three of Ross’ five com­ple­tions went to Cook, who also reeled in an eight-yard touch­down in the fourth quar­ter.

“He’s a huge tar­get, he’s a big body with good hands,” Ross said. “It’s great see­ing him come across the mid­dle and throw­ing that big body into space.”

The only score in the third quar­ter was a 21-yard field goal by Wood’s Bobby Hen­nessey. Hen­nessey, a se­nior, had an event­ful Fri­day. A start­ing mid­fielder for the Vik­ings boys’ soc­cer team, he bagged two goals in Wood’s 3-0 PCL quar­ter­fi­nal win over Arch­bishop Car­roll in the af­ter­noon, then got to UD in time to go 4-for-4 on ex­tra points and 1-for-2 on field goals.

Wood’s de­fense was stel­lar in the sec­ond half, con­tain­ing La Salle’s run­ners and rush­ing Daly in the pocket. Line­backer Brett Gross had one of the defin­ing plays of the night, blow­ing through the line and drop­ping Daly for a 16-yard sack in the fourth quar­ter.

Quar­ter­back isn’t the only of­fen­sive po­si­tions the Vik­ings have had to shuf­fle this fall. Tail­back Chris Black­stone has been out in­jured so ju­nior Tom San­ti­ago has stepped up to fill the fea­tured back role.

“We just kept pound­ing it, that’s what we do, and they couldn’t stop it,” San­ti­ago said. “I have a great line, they stuck to their as­sign­ments and ex­e­cuted and I had wide open holes in there.”

San­ti­ago ran for 250 yards two weeks ago in a win over Arch­bishop Ryan, then car­ried 21 times in last week’s lop­sided loss to St. Joe’s Prep. On Fri­day, the ju­nior toted the ball 27 times for 193 yards and a 39-yard touch­down that iced the scoring.

“He sees the hole and he hits it like that,” Sten­gel said. “He just goes for it and if he sees a lit­tle crease, he’s go­ing to hit and pick up 15 yards. When we see him get up, he’s smil­ing, he’s not huff­ing and puff­ing and it re­ally gets us go­ing.”

San­ti­ago said he’s been us­ing ice baths to help recover af­ter his re­cent heavy work­loads while con­tin­u­ing to train and keep his fit­ness up. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound ham­mer said he wasn’t ex­pect­ing to have this large a work­load but he’s em­braced the chal­lenge and the re­spon­si­bil­ity the coaches have put on him.

“I wasn’t ex­pect­ing this, but I had to step up and do what I needed to do for my team,” San­ti­ago said. “I just want to help the team. Our main goal is a state cham­pi­onship, so what­ever I need to do to get there, I’ll do.”

The Vik­ings ground game im­pressed Stein­metz as well.

“We talked about (San­ti­ago) last week, he’s good and a su­per run­ning back,” Stein­metz said. “The guy that makes the whole thing go is 58 (se­nior tackle Connor Bishop) that kid is a ter­rific blocker, he fires off the ball and the rest of their of­fen­sive line fol­lows him fir­ing off the ball.”

La Salle fin­ishes with Ro­man Catholic then heads into the PCL 6A playoffs with a re­match against Fa­ther Judge. Wood ends its reg­u­lar sea­son with Judge, then will pre­pare for the 5A PCL playoffs.

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Arch­bishop Wood’s Cardel Pig­ford gains yardage as La Salle de­fend­ers pur­sue Fri­day night.

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Arch­bishop Wood’s Tom San­ti­ago finds run­ning room against La Salle Fri­day night.

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

La Salle’s Sam Brown runs up field af­ter a re­cep­tion Fri­day night.

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Arch­bishop Wood’s Leroy Pendle­ton is tack­led near the side­line by La Salle’s Dil­lon Trainer Fri­day night.

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

La Salle quar­ter­back Sean Daly runs with the ball against Arch­bishop Wood Fri­day night.

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

La Salle’s Manny Quiles al­ludes a tackle against Arch­bishop Wood Fri­day night.

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