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Archbishop Wood throttles McDevitt for first PIAA title

Written by: on Saturday, December 17th, 2011


HERSHEY, Pa. – There have been some dominant teams who have been counted among the Class AAA ranks in PIAA history, including the 1992 Berwick Bulldogs and 2008 Thomas Jefferson Jaguars.

Add the 2011 edition of the Archbishop Wood Vikings to the list.

Wood (14-1), ranked nationally among the USA-Today’s top-25 teams, rolled to 343 rushing yards behind the backfield tandem of cousins Desmon and Brandon Peoples and lethally physical offensive line to pummel District 3 champion Bishop McDevitt (13-3), 52-0, in the PIAA Class AAA championship game from Hersheypark Stadium Friday night.

The Viking victory marked the third state football championship for the Philadelphia Catholic League since it gained PIAA membership just four years ago. The 52-point margin was the widest victory ever in the history of the PIAA football championships and marked the second-most points scored in a AAA final, when Thomas Jefferson scored 56 points in a 2004 mercy rule victory over Manheim Central.

“They (McDevitt) are a good football team and have a good staff and good kids,” said Archbishop Wood head coach. “To score 52 points on that defense is mind-boggling. I didn’t see it coming.

“From Day One, everyone said Wood was going to be this or Wood was going to do that,” Devlin continued. “There was a lot of pressure.”

Neither did Crusader head coach Jeff Weachter, whose team became the first to lose consecutive AAA championship games since Sharon Area in 1994 and 1995. McDevitt lost last year’s state final to Allentown Central Catholic, 28-27.

“Both losses hurt in different ways,” Weachter said. “That’s hands down one of the best teams in the state, and possibly one of the best teams (ever) in AAA.”

Wood was flat out dominant from the word “go,” racing to a touchdown on its third play from scrimmage when Temple-bound Brandon Peoples burst 30 yards through the McDevitt defense. Brandon Peoples would score two more touchdowns on the night – via runs of 67 and 6 yards in the fourth quarter – with the PIAA mercy rule running clock in effect.

Brandon Peoples ran for a game-high 171 yards on 16 carries. Desmon Peoples ran for 151 yards on 18 carries – meaning the cousins each surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the second consecutive season, becoming the 11th PIAA champion to feature a pair of 1,000-yard rushers since 2001. The Peoples’ became the fifth backfield tandem to each run for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons since 2006.

“Winning the state title means everything,” Brandon Peoples said. “That’s the Wood standard. Our girls basketball team is outstanding. Our soccer teams are very good. It was time for the football team to pick up its load.”

Did Wood ever. The Vikings averaged 8.4 yards per carry on 41 rushing attempts, and the Crusaders had no answer for Wood’s offensive line of Frank Taylor, Brandon Arcidiacono, Nick Arcidiacono, Fran Walsh and George Griffin and blocking tight end Colin Thompson. Offesive line coach Mike Carey called the Wood line “one of the two best offensive lines I ever coached.” Carey said Brandon Arcidiacono was the best center he ever coached and Frank Taylor was the second-best lineman he coached, behind Joe Wilson on the 1998 Central Bucks West team.

“(Collectively), it’s one of the greatest lines I’ve ever coached,” Carey said.

“They were such an incredible force,” said Desmon Peoples, a Rutgers recruit. “The talent of the line gave extra motivation for the backfield to work hard.”

Desmon Peoples pushed Wood’s lead to 21-0 by the 8:40 mark of the second quarter on touchdown runs of 54 yards and 1 yard and Nate Smith caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Joey Monaghan (2-of-6, 48 yards) to widen the Viking lead to 28-0. Kicker Nick Visco added a 41-yard field goal to push the lead to 31-0 at halftime.

Junior linebacker Andrew Guckin invoked the mercy rule on a 75-yard interception return with 5:37 left in the third quarter.

McDevitt quarterback Alec Werner had thrown only three interceptions in his last 14 games, but this night, the Crusaders’ junior threw three picks, completing only 21-of-48 passes for 249 yards. Werner finished his season with 3,538 yards, a new school record for passing yards in a single season. Junior Brian Lemelle finished with 11 catches for 127 yards and Shawn Seif caught eight passes for 90 yards.

“The only chance we had to win was with the pass,” Weachter said. “We were banged up (with our running backs).”

McDevitt finished with just 20 rushing yards on 15 team carries.

NOTE: Archbishop Wood finished with 699 points scored in 15 games – the seventh-highest total in PIAA history. The Vikings became the sixth PIAA champion to score 680 points in a season.

Photos provided by Matt Topper and Mike Zortman

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