When Archbishop Wood played West Catholic in Week 5 of the season, much was different.
After suffering two losses to start the season, Wood was in search of its third win in hopes of reviving goals of a second straight District 12 championship.
West Catholic was on a roll. Its only loss had been to Class AAAA powerhouse La Salle, and the Burrs were looking to improve to 4-1.
The Vikings defeated the Burrs in a close game, 16-14. Since then, neither team has lost, and both will play in state semifinal playoff games this weekend.
Archbishop Wood will face District 4 champion Selinsgrove at 7 on Friday night at HersheyPark Stadium in a Class AAA semifinal. West Catholic will play Lancaster Catholic at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Coatesville in a Class AA semifinal.
Wood will look to capitalize on the momentum it gained in beating undefeated Pottsgrove, 30-28, last week on the back of senior quarterback Jerry Rahill, who rushed for the winning touchdown to climax a 62-yard drive.
"He'll run the option. He's very good at running the quarterback [isolation] and quarterback trap," said Lansdale Catholic coach Jim Algeo, whose Crusaders suffered a 22-19 defeat to the Vikings on Nov. 7. "He's just a very competitive kid."
Algeo called Wood tough to beat not just because of its quarterback. The Vikings also mix in a number of different packages and exploit any opponents' mistakes.
Their versatility has helped the Vikings average 26 points per game this season.
"They're good to begin with. I'll say that right off the bat," Algeo said. "They mix in a bunch of different packages. They bring in a spread package and a power package, where they play two tight ends."
Rahill doesn't do it all himself. Running back Scott Adkins balances the Vikings' attack, and wideout Sam McCain gives the quarterback a reliable target. Last week against Pottsgrove, Rahill connected with McCain four times for 52 yards on the final drive that led Wood to victory.
And, if the ball isn't in the hands of Rahill and the offense Friday night, it likely will be soon. The Vikings' defense has kept teams to a touchdown or less in eight of 13 games this season and has given up just 13.3 points per game.
For Selinsgrove, the key will be avoiding mistakes.
"You have to be very sound yourself," Algeo said. "You have to upgrade to the top of your game with blocking, catching and not turning the ball over. Because if you turn the ball over, you're going to pay for it."
Like Wood, West Catholic has not lost in months. Since their loss to the Vikings, the Burrs have pulled off nine straight victories, including three shutouts and a thrilling 19-14 win in the snow last week against North Schuylkill.
As they have all season, the Burrs will rely on their speed Saturday against Lancaster Catholic.
"I really like their quarterback," Archbishop Carroll coach Dan Bielli said of West Catholic's Jarred Evans. "I think he can throw. I think it makes it tough for you to concentrate on the run game or the pass game. Generally they can outrun you anyways. I know they can outrun my team. It's a difficult challenge."
Bielli's squad lost to the Burrs, 42-7, on Sept. 26. The high point total was not unusual. West Catholic averages 32.5 points per game with an offense anchored by 6-foot-2 290-pound senior Jake Zuzek.
"He's an outstanding player," Bielli said. "I've been watching him for three years. I wish he had gone to Carroll. He's a team player, and he's Division I all the way."
West Catholic's defense allowed just 11.2 points per game. A large front and an athletic backfield will be a lot to handle for Lancaster Catholic.
"They have size, and they all can run," Bielli said. "Their linebackers look very confident. Their linemen are outstanding. Their secondary guys are their receivers. They're an outstanding team."
With such a well-rounded team, don't be surprised to see the Burrs back in the state finals.
"I'm pulling for them to go all the way," Bielli said.