LIKE EVERY youngster infatuated with football, Frank Taylor barely knew linemen existed.
He loved only the rushers, passers and catchers and just knew he'd someday experience their nonstop joy.
One problem: Taylor, now a 6-4, 295-pound senior at Archbishop Wood High, was always large for his age. And when he finally began playing CYO football as a fifth-grader for the Bux-Mont Saints, the ball might as well have been encased in glass.
"Sure, you always like to think you're gonna touch the rock," Taylor said yesterday, standing near vending machines in a semi-quiet area between the gym and weight room, maybe 20 minutes before the Vikings headed for Central Bucks West so they could practice on turf. "But I love playing the line. There's nowhere else I'd rather be."
Tomorrow night at 7 o'clock, you'll be able to catch Taylor and the Vikings at HersheyPark Stadium.
Yet again, they'll be pursuing an elusive Class AAA state title and the opponent will be Bishop McDevitt, of Harrisburg.
This is season No. 4 of the Catholic League's PIAA involvement and Wood has always made playoff runs.
In 2008, it fell in the final to Thomas Jefferson, 34-7.
In 2009, it laid a 28-0 semifinal egg vs. Selinsgrove.
In 2010, again in a semi, it was scorched by Allentown Central Catholic, 49-27.
"Those last two losses really haunt me," Taylor said. "It was rough not winning the state. I looked at those seniors, guys I'd grown close to, and it was hard to realize our days of playing together were over. I felt like I'd let them down.
"I mean, I didn't see things as my fault, but you start thinking, 'Was there one thing I could have done better? Was there one thing we could have changed?' . . . Long bus rides back. Just minor chatting."
Understandably, current Vikings such as quarterback Joey Monaghan, rushing Peoples cousins Desmon (Rutgers) and Brandon (Temple), tight end Colin Thompson (Florida) and wideout Nate Smith (West Virginia) are constantly basking in media attention. Taylor, however, is the only 3-year starter on both sides of the line (tackle/tackle), and he has become so accomplished his next stop will be Boston College.
(He promises not to begin pronouncing yard as yahd.)
Taylor has that classic squared-jawed lineman's look. In fact, you could pretty much picture him on "Monday Night Football," staring through your screen in hard-guy fashion while saying in a monotone, "Frank Taylor . . . tackle . . . Boston College."
And then saying immediately afterward, "I hate this stuff. I'm here to play football."
Once he does, he shows how much he loves his job.
"Because of my size, I always had to be a lineman," Taylor said. "But once I got good at what I do, I started appreciating it more. I feel like every touchdown we score is my touchdown because I know I was a part of it. I don't need the glory. I just want to win.
"I guess that mentality started in my sophomore year. I was playing on varsity and people were saying I was having a pretty good season. I was like, 'I can do this.' I decided to keep trying to get better and better."
Though the Vikings lost their opener to Pittsburgh Central Catholic, they have done nothing but frolic since. Overall, they have outscored their opponents, 647-124, and the score of their only "close" game - 41-22 over Pottsgrove in a quarterfinal - is misleading because that one was very one-sided until some missteps by subs.
The Peoples cousins share backfield time with handyman Ryan McMullin. On 393 plays involving those three and Monaghan (as a rusher and passer), Wood has averaged 10.4 yards. Take away Monaghan's rushing and the norm is 11.3.
Taylor looked shocked when told those numbers. No wonder. You're talkin' a first down per play.
The grunts aside from Taylor are center Brandon Arcidiacono (Rutgers), guards George Griffin and Nick Arcidiacono (Brandon's brother) and tackle Fran Walsh. The tight end is Colin Thompson and Chris O'Connor deserves a mention because he recently filled in nicely when Taylor tweaked his knee.
It happened in practice the week before the Pottsgrove game.
"At first it was kind of scary," he said. "But I was able to walk on it, limpingly, a couple minutes later. I was ready to go for Pottsgrove, but they told me to keep resting it and that they'd be OK without me."
To some degree, Taylor, who lives in Warrington and has four older siblings - Derek, Dayne, Brittney and Chelsey ("My brothers didn't play football . . . neither did my sisters, of course") - is dreading tomorrow night. That's because his grid interaction with a terrific bunch of guys will be over.
"Ever since freshman year, this has been a great class," he said. "We've seen each other grow and mature and become great football players. The offensive line has really molded together. We have a feel for how each guy plays, and how to motivate each other. There's no other group of guys I'd rather go to war with, day in and day out."
And on the final night?
"We've gotten more and more frustrated," Frank Taylor said. "This has to be the year. We're ready to finish things off."