Wood edges Ryan to win PCL title
WARMINSTER >> Archbishop Wood’s offense took the field in the middle part of the fourth quarter Friday night, determined not to leave until it had scored.
What resulted was a pretty vintage Wood drive, with a lot of running the ball behind an offensive line that didn’t appear too tired despite the stage of the game. Archbishop Ryan had pushed the Vikings to their limits up to that point but they were determined.
Tom Santiago scored the goahead touchdown and the defense held when it had to as Wood topped Ryan 24-17 at rain-swept William Tennent to capture the PCL 5A championship Friday night.
“This is the hardest-working Wood team I’ve been a part of,” Vikings senior left tackle/defensive tackle Connor Bishop said. “It goes to our work ethic and our conditioning. I knew going into it we could win the fourth quarter and the second half, as we have most of the year.”
Wood edged Ryan 27-7 in the regular season, a score that Vikings coach Kyle Adkins said didn’t accurately reflect how close the contest was. The Raiders, who started 6-0, have felt all year they had the ability to beat the Vikings and gave Wood two very difficult games.
It certainly helps Ryan’s case by having Tyreek Chappell on the roster. The explosive sophomore, along with versatile quarterback Jahlil Sanders, again created plenty of headaches for Wood’s defense with Sanders throwing for a pair of long second quarter touchdowns.
“Clearly, they game-planned very well for us then came out and executed their plan,” Bishop said. “We expected it come down to the end, because we knew they’re a good team and it’s tough to beat the same team twice in a season. All in all, it was a good win but we have to get a lot better.”
Wood also got some muchneeded reinforcement on Friday as it started the game with all its starters healthy. The game didn’t end that way, as defensive back Joe Wade and lineman Charley Miniger picked up injuries, but Wood got quarterback Jack Colyar back and running back Chris Blackstone back in the rotation.
Santiago, who scored Wood’s first touchdown and its last, more than held court as the featured back during the regular season, but getting Blackstone in the mix was key on Friday. Blackstone ran for 60 yards and took a couple key carries on that final touchdown drive before Santiago came back in fresh and finished it off.
“Our kids are in pretty good physical shape and today we had all our starters back which I think showed later in the game,” Adkins said. “We were able to get guys off
the field. We got some offensive linemen off the defensive line so they were fresh down the stretch and that’s what we wanted.”
With Wood up 7-0 entering the second quarter, the offenses exploded in the frame. Sanders hit Chappell for a 47-yard touchdown to tie the game, only for Wood to come back on a 68-yard Colyar to Jake Ross TD.
That lead didn’t last long either, as Ryan’s next play was a 71-yard Sanders to Mekhi Lang connection to tie the game 14-14. The teams traded field goals on their first drives of the second half, so the mirror match continued at 17-17.
“In this weather, it’s tough to really open it up so we were comfortable with sticking to our running game,” Adkins said. “This doesn’t surprise us at all, we knew it was going to be a tough game, we knew it’d be a fourth quarter game that came down to a couple plays.”
Bishop said on the last two drives of the game, the Wood scoring drive and then the defensive stand, it was a matter of execution. The senior lineman, who has committed to Army, said Ryan knew what his team was going to do and the Vikings knew what the Raiders were going to do.
After Wood forced a punt, the Vikings took over on their own 43 with 8:48 to go. The resulting 11-play drive, all runs, started with two Santiago runs, followed by six straight Blackstone carries and finally the two-yard Santiago touchdown off the left side.
“We’re always competing in practice, those two compete off each other and when we get to games, Tom knows he doesn’t have to do it all himself,” Bishop said. “We’ve always had nice tandems at Wood in the backfield, and those two are right there with them.”
Ryan showed a lot of heart itself after Wood scored. Sanders escaped a tackle in the backfield for a 19-yard gain, he made a couple key completions and a 10-yard run by Kyron Long moved the ball to
Wood’s 23. From there, the defense stepped up, forcing Sanders into two incompletions and a two-yard gain to bring up fourth down.
With Santiago and safety Ryan DeVergilis on coverage, Wood got a stop on the fourth down with an incomplete pass and Colyar was able to kneel out the win.
“From my perspective, it took a motor that just kept going,” Bishop said. “We knew what we were going to do to stop them, we just had to do it.”
Wood, which is seeking its third straight state title, will play for the District 12 title next weekend. The Vikings will face Simon Gratz.
“Since January, our goal has been three-peat and we know this is part of that, we can’t win a state title unless we win this game,” Bishop said. “We have to take it one game at a time, go 1-0 for five weeks and we’ll complete our goal.
“I think we’ve shown heart throughout the entire year, we’ve had heart late. I wouldn’t say I was overconfident, but I knew we could pull it out in the end.”