Defending champions too much for Vikings
Wood fell behind early and could not keep up with the bigger, more physical Jefferson.
HERSHEY, Pa. - For Archbishop Wood, heart and determination were firmly in place. But interior muscle and overall size were missing ingredients.
Thomas Jefferson made full use of the physical differential. The Jaguars racked up 338 yards of offense and easily handled the undersized Vikings, 34-7, to claim their second consecutive PIAA Class AAA state title before 2,082 at ice-cold Hersheypark Stadium.
Aided by two first-half turnovers, the District 7 champions scored on their first four possessions and comfortably led, 28-7, at intermission.
"We knew we were bigger than them and we never thought moving the ball was going to be a problem," Jaguars coach Bill Cherpak said.
Archbishop Wood was trying to become the first District 12 football team to win a state crown. It had to settle for a Catholic League Division AAA first-place plaque, top city honors, and runner-up status in Pennsylvania.
"We had a great year, a great run," said Vikings coach Steve Devlin, who has compiled a 21-6 record in two seasons. "I love these kids to death."
Thomas Jefferson's Tyler Wehner, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound quarterback, produced five scores. The strong-armed senior threw for three touchdowns, all in the first half, and ran for two more. He completed 8 of 13 passes for 156 yards. Two of his TD tosses went to Pittsburgh-bound tight end Brock DeCicco.
Sean McCartney, a dual-threat senior QB for the Vikings, connected on 9 of 22 passes for 100 yards. He was picked off three times.
Thomas Jefferson (15-1) allowed just 106 rushing yards on 28 attempts. McCartney rushed 16 times for 74 yards and senior halfback Sean Cunningham netted 32 yards on 10 attempts.
Things started out badly for the Vikings (12-3). Sophomore Sean Cain fumbled the opening kickoff and the Jaguars recovered at the 27-yard line. Following his 22-yard pass to wideout Jim Giansante, Wehler ran for a 5-yard TD.
"The epitome of our team over the years has been to take advantage of opponents' mistakes," Cherpak said. "Mentally, it's very tough to come back against us."
Later in the first quarter, after a McCartney pass was intercepted at the 21 and returned 10 yards, Thomas Jefferson needed just four plays (and the help of a 15-yard facemask penalty) to make it a 14-0 contest. Wehner hooked up with a wide-open Dan Virgin for a 13-yard tally.
Archbishop Wood's only score came early in the second quarter. An 11-play, 70-yard drive was capped by a 26-yard TD pass to tight end Anthony Narisi (three catches for 54 yards).
The Jaguars responded with two more scores before heading to the locker room. Wehner delivered TD tosses of 32 and 18 yards to DeCicco.
Cunningham, a 6-foot, 200-pound senior, finished his season with 1,777 rushing yards and 26 TDs.
Thomas Jefferson 14 14 0 6 - 34
Archbishop Wood 0 7 0 0 - 7
TJ: Wehner 5 run (Sauter kick)
TJ: Virgin 13 pass from Wehner (Sauter kick)
AW: Narisi 26 pass from McCartney (McFadden kick)
TJ: DeCicco 32 pass from Wehner (Sauter kick)
TJ: DeCicco 18 pass from Wehner (Sauter kick)
TJ: Wehner 1 run (kick blocked)