HERSHEY - The Peopleses' choice turned out to be tremendous.
Not only did Desmon and Brandon, the first-cousin rushing stars, find a school where they could make friends for life, they combined to take a stroll into history.
Desmon's name is listed first because it was his ultrabright idea to transfer to Archbishop Wood High from St. Joseph's Prep during the summer of 2010. Then he decided to twist Brandon's arm, with the idea of having company, and he quickly came to realize that such exertion was not even necessary.
When Brandon was asked Friday night how much thought he'd needed to give to ditching Abington in favor of Wood, he smiled and said, "None at all, really."
The best things in life can sometimes be so simple.
Desmon, the tailback, and Brandon, the fullback, are now seniors and they'll play their college football at Rutgers and Temple, respectively. At each school they'll tell stories that will have their new teammates doing major Google searches, just to make sure everything is true.
Before a huge crowd at ch-chilly HersheyPark Stadium, thrilling not only students and parents but also recent players who'd reached the semis or more in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and turned out in large numbers, Wood demolished Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt, 52-0, to seize the PIAA Class AAA state championship.
You read that right. The Vikings won a state final by 52 points . . . 1 week after storming to a 56-point win (70-14) in a semifinal vs. Allentown Central Catholic.
The demolition derby finalized their record at 14-1, with the one loss, to Pittsburgh Central Catholic, having come in the season opener.
All the Peoples cousins did was combine for five rushing touchdowns and 323 yards. Brandon led in TDs, 3-2, and yardage, 172-151, while Desmon had a shade more carries, 18-16. From his defensive back spot, Desmon added a pair of interceptions.
Again and again over the last 5 1/2 minutes, and then 50 more times in the postgame celebration, Desmon and Brandon shared unbridled emotion. Rumor has it they left the stadium with injured faces . . . from smiling for so many pictures.
"I'm glad I accomplished this with Brandon," Desmon said. "This is one moment we will always remember for the rest of our lives."
Said Brandon: "To get to play with my cousin for 2 years and win a championship like this, there's nothing more I could ask for."
When Brandon steamed for a 30-yard touchdown on Wood's third play, after the defense had held McDevitt to a one-first-down series, the atmosphere along the sideline improved significantly. Not to say it was negative or apprehensive beforehand, but until the game actually gets rolling, how can you know for sure what might happen?
By halftime the score was 31-0, thanks to runs of 54 yards and 1 yard by Desmon, a 19-yard pass from Joey Monaghan to Nate Smith and Nick Visco's 41-yard field goal.
Opening portion of the third quarter? Oh, my goodness! Kevin Sullivan actually had to punt on two consecutives series.
"Pretty sure," he said, "that's only the sixth time all year I had to do that. Only the third time with the first-team offense on the field."
Sullivan's foot then was mothballed. Wood scored on its last two possessions - runs of 67 and 6 yards by Brandon - after Andrew Guckin repped for the defense with a TD on a 75-yard interception return.
All season, observers had speculated on which unit truly fueled the Vikings.
"Hard to say," coach Steve Devlin commented. "They complement each other so much. We get a big turnover and then, boom!, we hit you with offense."
Expanding on the latter part of that comment, he added, "McDevitt had nine starters back on defense from a team that lost in last year's state championship game by one point. You never would have convinced me we'd put up 52 points."
The grunts were center Brandon Arcidiacono (Rutgers), guards Nick Arcidiacono (his brother) and George Griffin, tackles Frank Taylor and Fran Walsh and honorary member Colin Thompson (Florida), the tight end. Occasionally, depending on play calls, Nick Arch and Walsh switched places.
Over the latter part of the fourth quarter, snapshot moments were everywhere.
One of the most poignant involved Jon Vicari, a two-way, 3-year contributor. Even with the game going on, he spent a long time crying uncontrollably along the sideline. For a while, he dipped down into a crouch.
"It was all just hitting me," he said later. "The fact that we finally did it, and that this is going to be my last football game. I've been playing with such great guys."
In Vicari's left hand was a giant-sized Hershey bar.
"I stole this from somebody out here," he said, laughing. "And they're not getting it back. I'm keeping this forever."
Before the game, a handful of recent players interacted with these Vikings during their journey up the steps from the locker room toward the field. Later, those guys, at least 50 strong, with some wearing only their old jerseys and the others decked out in football-themed jackets, occupied a section of the stands. Among those viewers was Scott Adkins (class of 2010), older brother of Kyle, a senior linebacker and receiver.
"I know he's feeling great," Kyle said. "They all have to be."
When Kyle was asked what had made this wildly successful season possible, he looked around the stadium, repeated the question to himself in a whisper and then said, "The coaches. They're awesome. They created such an environment of competitiveness at practice. We had to practice hard every day."
Aside from his pick six, Guckin notched a sack among six solo tackles. Smith recorded four solos and the Vikings broke up 11 passes.
McDevitt's best chance at a score came right before halftime. On a completed pass over the middle, Smith absolutely crushed a receiver at the 4 and an attempt at a spike went awry due to a faulty snap as the clock ran out.
In the Vikings' postgame meeting, held on the field prior to the trophy presentation, Devlin spoke glowingly of his players' talent and camaraderie, and then reached an emotional wall.
"I've never seen anything like this," he said. The next sentence did not follow in rapid fashion . . . "And it's chokin' me up."
Later, Devlin was being asked whether the 2011 Vikings, due to all the size and speed and depth, and the fact that six players have already made Division I commitments, should be under consideration for Best Team in City History honors.
"I think it's gotta be close, right?" he said.
Maybe 20 feet away, Brandon Peoples was focused on something else.
"At my old school," he said, "I felt like an outsider. Here, I'm part of a family. We're not just 61 players. We're a team. With Wood football, there's an expectation of winning championships and everyone works toward that goal. The whole Wood community cares about us and that's what makes this place great.
"It's so cool, what we've done. Desmon and I played together in pound ball, then later we'd always say, 'We should be doing this in high school.' We did it and . . . look . . . what . . . happened! We did this together as part of one great Wood family."