HERSHEY - When the tricky stuff didn't work, Archbishop Wood did what it has done best all season.
After Central Valley senior Brandon Wilson returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown to end the half, the Vikings punished the Warriors on the ground the rest of the way.
Not a bad plan when Jarrett McClenton and Alex Arcangeli occupy your backfield and you have serious strength up front.
Add a physical defensive effort and you get the recipe Wood used to claim its third Class AAA championship in four seasons with a 33-14 win over Central Valley.
"It was a gut check at halftime," said senior linebacker Jake Cooper. "With that pick-six, they had a swing in momentum a little, but we came in at the half with a positive attitude. We came out and knew we could play Wood football."
The interception just before the half appeared to be an attempt at a hook-and-lateral until Wilson stepped in front of the initial pass.
After that, the Vikings chopped away on the ground. With tears in his eyes, Penn State commit Ryan Bates, who leads the Vikings' offensive line, tried to capture the moment.
"I'm emotional every year," he said. "We worked from last January to now. This is such a great feeling. We came all the way back here and won it again! I can't say anymore."
McClenton finished with 230 yards, only 8 short of his record performance in the Vikings' win against Harrisburg's Bishop McDevitt last season. Yesterday, the Villanova commit also added four touchdowns from 12, 12, 51 and 15 yards out. Arcangeli finished with 132 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown.
In total, Wood mauled the Warriors for 379 ground yards with 210 coming in the first half.
Two plays after McClenton slashed 48 yards on the game's second play from scrimmage, the senior running back scored from 12 yards out after a quick burst right.
After an exchange of punts followed, Wood senior Alex Arcangeli bullied his way for 38 yards on a pair of carries (longest was 29). McClenton finished the three-play, 50-yard drive with another 12-yard touchdown with 1:33 left in the first quarter.
Central Valley star Jordan Whitehead tackled Arcangeli low on the 29-yard gain but remained on the field favoring an arm. The Pittsburgh commit sat on the bench for a few plays, but returned in a big way after missing a series.
Upon his return, Whitehead caught a swing pass on the left side and sped 58 yards into Wood territory. The Vikings' defense eventually held though after Mack Schwartz tackled John George at the 1 on third down, and Whitehead couldn't haul in a pass on fourth. Whitehead finished with 34 yards rushing.
The District 7 Warriors (15-1) did eventually tally on Wilson's pick-six, coming within 12-7 at halftime.
Later, John George (210 yards) hit Kurt Reinstadtler down the right side with 11:16 left, pulling the Warriors within 20-14, with 11:16 left in the final frame.
However, Schwartz, (six tackles), Devon Cobb (five tackles, two for losses and a fumble recovery) and Justin Rubin helped an aggressive Wood defense stand tall.
"We just had to be physical, run to the football and stop Whitehead," said Nafeez Brown-Carter (five tackles).
But Wood's final answers came on the ground. In response to Reinstadtler's score, a physical, 10-play, 58-yard Wood drive was capped by a 15-yard McClenton score. Later, Arcangeli would add a 7-yard score to cement victory.
"This is outstanding," said Cooper, a Penn State commit. "Words can't describe it. Such a phenomenal effort. I'm so happy for my team, my coaches and everyone. What a way to go out, what a way to go out."