HERSHEY, Pa. - In recent weeks, Archbishop Wood's defense had been suffocating right from the get-go.
But Erie's Cathedral Prep, with quickness and solid blocking up front, gained the upper hand on the Vikings in the first 24 minutes of Friday night's PIAA Class AAA state final.
With Michigan State-bound quarterback Damion Terry leading the way, the Ramblers did all of their scoring before the break and downed the Vikings, 24-14, at HersheyPark Stadium for their first state title since 2000.
The District 10 squad put the finishing touches on a 15-0 campaign. After making great strides toward the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, Wood (12-3) fell short of a second consecutive crown.
Terry, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior, hit on 13 of 24 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried 12 times for 55 yards and a score.
The Vikings lost despite getting a combined 302 rushing yards from senior tailback Andrew Guckin (30 carries for 178) and junior fullback Josh Messina (17 for 124).
In the first half, Terry, finding the cracks in Wood's secondary, completed 7 of 12 passes for 215 yards. He also found paydirt on a 6-yard keeper.
Wood made noise on offense in the early going by opening with a seven-play, 80-yard drive. Messina's 32-yard burst gave the District 12 champs a 7-0 advantage.
Soon after, Terry, who will be joined at Michigan State by teammate Delton Williams, a speedy running back and safety, found Troy Woodard wide-open along the right sideline for a 59-yard connection.
Midway through the second frame, Terry delivered a 33-yard pass to Williams that moved the ball to the Wood 10. From there, Terry's back-to-back runs of 4 and 6 yards made it 17-7.
With 4 1/2 minutes left before intermission, Terry's 60-yard strike to Felix Manus-Schell upped the advantage to 24-7. Manus-Schell caught the ball over the middle, made his way to the sideline and, with a blocker taking out cornerback Anthony Roakes, made a final cut at the 12.
On its first possession of the second half, Wood put together a 13-play, 80-yard series. Guckin's 5-yard run and Nick Visco's extra-point boot cut the gap to 24-14.
With 6:48 to go in the fourth quarter, Messina, on fourth-and-1 from the 24, was stopped for no gain.
After Wood quickly took the ball back on a fumble recovery, a Tom Garlick pass intended for wideout Chris Rahill was tipped and intercepted by Manus-Schell in the end zone. The Ramblers then ran out the clock.
The Vikings netted 305 rushing yards on 52 attempts; Garlick hit on 5 of 12 passes for 40 yards; and Messina added four catches for 35 yards.
Cathedral Prep 7 17 0 0-24
Archbishop Wood 7 0 7 0-14
AW: Josh Messina 32 run (Nick Visco kick)
CP: Troy Woodard 59 pass from Damion Terry (John Chereson kick)
CP: FG Chereson 33
CP: Terry 6 run (Chereson kick)
CP: Felix Manus-Schell 60 pass from Terry (Chereson kick)