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High Schools - Grimes keeps Wood grounded heading into Class AAA semifinal vs. Selinsgrove

IN THE TIME between the 2007 and 2008 football seasons at Archbishop Wood High, Dan Grimes could always be found doing two kinds of lifting.

IN THE TIME between the 2007 and 2008 football seasons at Archbishop Wood High, Dan Grimes could always be found doing two kinds of lifting.

Weights in the air. Footballs off the floor.

Coach Steve Devlin needed a center and the guy he pegged for that position - or at least offered first crack - was Grimes, theretofore a guard.

"After lifting weights, I had to go out in the hallway and practice some snaps for our shotgun offense," Grimes said.

Not just some.

"It was 50 every day," Devlin said, devilishly.

Back to Grimes . . .

"It's not the easiest thing to do," he said. "I didn't break anything, but I put some off the ceiling."

Grimes is now a 5-11, 240-pound senior and this is second year of starting at you-know-where. As in '08, Wood has fashioned a very successful season and few - though Grimes insists he was very much among them - would have predicted that.

Tonight at 7 o'clock at Hersheypark Stadium, the 11-2 Vikings will meet 14-0 Selinsgrove in a rematch of last year's Class AAA semifinal participants, thus commencing a memorable weekend for a Catholic League just 2 years into its PIAA experience.

Tomorrow, in a pair of 1 o'clock games, La Salle will meet Ridley for AAAA East honors at Northeast High's Charlie Martin Memorial Stadium, while West Catholic will face Lancaster Catholic in AA at Coatesville High.

Wood last year advanced to the championship game, which produced a 34-7 loss to Thomas Jefferson.

The world, seemingly, caved in 5-plus months later when a slew of quality players accepted their diplomas. Just three starters would be returning - Grimes and a pair of defenders, Jerry Rahill (now also a do-it-all quarterback) and Scott Adkins (scorer this season of six varieties of touchdowns).

"I knew we'd be good again," Grimes said, "because I knew the guys who'd be filling those spots were good athletes and hard-working kids. I trusted them. I felt pretty confident we could do as well."

Grimes, squinting into the sun, expressed those thoughts Wednesday afternoon while seated on a bench in a small, parklike area right near Wood's gym.

Soon, he and his teammates would be going to work, first on the "asphalturf" of a parking lot and then inside that same gym (the practice field was way too messy). Yesterday's walk-through was held in Hershey after everyone bused there following dismissal.

Grimes spoke mostly in a monotone. Wait, is this the same guy who roars up and down the sideline, celebrating wildly, with helmet off, every time Wood scores a touchdown?

"I just get excited," he said. "It feels good when you know you all did your job, and it paid off.

"When we score, the guy who does it makes sure to thank us all. That's only right, and we appreciate it. One person can't do it in football. Has to be everyone."

Compared with some kids, especially those who come through the Catholic system, where weight is not an issue, Grimes got a late football start.

Though he loved watching televised games with his brothers-in-law, his parents, Carol and Jim, were not exactly grid groupies and Dan resisted the come-join-us requests of schoolmates until he reached the eighth grade.

His first team was the Buxmont Saints, which represents multiple schools. His initial position assignment was not the result of hour upon hour of discussion among the coaches.

"I was bigger and didn't know what to do," Grimes said. "They just stuck me at nose guard and said, 'Find the ball. Go tackle kids.' Right away I started loving it."

Over time he realized . . .

"Football gives you adrenaline," he said. "I like the battles.

"When I have to go get a linebacker, it's usually one-on-one. And sometimes if I'm going after a nose guard. But usually, I'm comboing with one of my guards, Steve Newns or Rory Clark, to go get a defensive tackle."

Grimes said he sensed the new Vikings felt confident about their '09 prospects after their third game produced a 17-7 win over Archbishop Ryan. The season had begun with losses to a pair of toughies, Cardinal O'Hara and Chestnut Hill Academy.

Two weeks later, Wood wilted West, 28-21, and the commuter train became an Acela.

"We had so much faith in each other and what we could do," Grimes said.

Grimes, who lives in Ivyland, is hoping to play Division III football and major in criminal justice. His deceased grandfather, James Grimes, was a police officer and his dad once served as a volunteer firefighter.

"Cleaning up the streets of bad guys, that'd be exciting," Dan Grimes said. "Like football."

Nothing like an emotional lift. *