Wood edges Ryan to win PCL ti­tle

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - SPORTS - By An­drew Robin­son arobin­[email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @ADRobin­son3 on Twit­ter

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.”

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