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Archbishop Wood (12, 12-2

Written by: on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Make it 5-for-5.

It was five years ago, believe it or not, that the Philadelphia Catholic League gained admittance as being a part of the fabric of PIAA football. And, for the fifth year, the PCL has sent at least one of its teams to Hershey to compete for a PIAA football championship.

Archbishop Wood can accomplish a couple of historic feats with a victory Friday night, but it will have a tall order to do do.

Archbishop Wood (12-2), the five time defending PCL and District 12 AAA champion, will make its third PIAA finals appearance in school history against a fellow Catholic opponent, Cathedral Prep (14-0), an 18-time District 10 champion, Friday night in the PIAA AAA state championship game from Hersheypark Stadium, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. Both the Ramblers and Vikings are each seeking a second PIAA championship to add to the trophy case.

Cathedral Prep would become District 10’s first-ever two-time PIAA football champion with the victory. Ditto for Archbishop Wood. The Vikings would become the first PCL representative with two PIAA football titles. LaSalle and West Catholic each have one.

With a victory, Wood would raise District 12’s record to 4-3 in PIAA title games, the first time the region would have ever enjoyed a record better than .500 in state finals games. Wood could also become the PCL/District 12’s first consecutive state football champion and would be the AAA classification’s first repeat champion since Thomas Jefferson claimed consecutive crowns in 2007 and 2008, capping a run of three titles in a five-year span.

Archbishop Wood, located in Warminster, is not too distant from Doylestown, the home base for the only other PIAA finals opponent Cathedral Prep ever faced – Central Bucks West. CP faced CB West three times, in 1991, 1999 and 2000. Wood, like CB West, also boasts colors of yellow and black.

Entering Friday’s title game, Wood has recorded 282 victories in its program history. The Vikings have eight seasons of 10 victories or more, and five of them have come under current head football coach Steve Devlin. Only one Viking team has ever finished a season undefeated and untied – the 2003 edition – which went 11-0 overall.

Since the start of the 2003 season, Archbishop Wood has posted an impressive record of 109-22 (.832), averaging 10.9 victories per season in that decade-long run.

Archbishop Wood will also make some history when quarterback Tom Garlick steps under center Friday night. Garlick is a freshman, and would become the first freshman to start a PIAA championship game at quarterback since 1999, when Dave Shinskie led Mount Carmel Area against Tyrone. The Red Tornadoes lost to the Golden Eagles, 13-6, in what still holds as District 6’s only victory in a state football championship game.

Garlick enters Friday’s game needing just 24 yards to become the fifth freshman quarterback in the state to throw for 1,000 yards in 2012, joining Brandon McIlwain (Council Rock North), Zach Chandler (Avonworth), Levi Metheny (Bethel Park) and Jeff Martin (Eastern Lebanon County). Since 2005, no more than three freshman quarterbacks ever threw for more than 1,000 yards in a season. The high water mark was three in 2008.

Head coach Steve Devlin is in his sixth season at the helm of Archbishop Wood’s football program, and he’s had quite a dominant run, posting an overall record of 71-13. He’s won five consecutive PCL AAA and District 12 AAA championships and the 2011 PIAA AAA title with what might be regarded as Pennsylvania’s best AAA team ever.

It’s no secret that Wood loves to run the football, and once again the Vikings boast an efficient rushing attack. Spearheaded by a pair of 1,000-yard rushers last season, the Vikings averaged 255 yards per game to claim state gold last year. Flash back to the present, and the Vikings average nearly 30 yards more per game on the ground in 2012. Try 283.9 yards rushing per game, along with 37.3 points per contest, too, behind a line featuring seniors Fran Walsh, Chris O’Connor and George Griffin, along with tight end Brandon Arcidiacono, a Rutgers recruit.

The headliner of Wood’s ground attack is senior Andrew Guckin, who has 1,817 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns on 179 carries. Guckin did not play on offense in Wood’s first two games of the season, but he returned with full force and fury since Week 3. Guckin set a new school single-game rushing record with 345 yards against Mosignor Bonner-Prendergast and followed that up a week later with 304 yards rushing against Cardinal O’Hara. Josh Messina (77-674-7) and Jarrett McClenton (53-635-8) round out Wood’s offensive backfield behind Garlick.

Garlick relieved senior Chris Rahill in Week 3 and has completed 63-of-126 passes for 976 yards and nine touchdowns. Rahill has become the Vikings’ featured receiving target. He’s caught 18 passes for 311 yards.

Defensively, Wood has allowed an average of 15.8 points per game between its first string and reserve units. The Vikings do not have a shutout for the entire season, but have limited eight of 14 opponents to 14 points or less.

Can Archbishop Wood become the PCL’s first two-time PIAA champion in football? Or will the Vikings have to settle for state silver for the second time in the last five years?

Find out Friday.

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