Desmon Peoples has gained the most acclaim for being a highly explosive, strike-from-anywhere type of tailback.

But the 5-foot-7, 170-pounder, with his quickness and willingness to lay his body on the line, also made key contributions for Archbishop Wood as a strong safety. "He's a great tackler, and he has a mean streak in him," Vikings coach Steve Devlin said.

Peoples was the complete package in Wood's drive to the program's first PIAA Class AAA state championship.

In the final against Harrisburg's Bishop McDevitt, the senior ignited a 52-0 romp with 151 rushing yards, including a 54-yard scoring burst and a 1-yard touchdown dive, and a pair of interceptions.

"We approached it like it was just another game," the 18-year-old said. "But looking back at it now, it was something bigger. It's something that will unite us forever."

In the semifinals against Allentown Central Catholic, he turned 12 carries into 182 yards and a pair of TDs as Wood cruised, 70-14, and gained redemption for a 2010 loss to Brendan Nosovitch and company.

For his overall efforts this season, Peoples, who rushed for 1,241 yards and posted 23 TDs in 13 appearances, is The Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania football player of the year.

"He was such a breakaway threat," Devlin said. "No matter where we had the ball, he could take it and score."

Peoples followed in the footsteps of his father, Darrien, who, after starring at Lincoln High, rushed for 3,156 yards at Kutztown. He was recently inducted into Kutztown's athletic hall of fame.

"He's been a big part of this whole thing," Desmon Peoples said. "He put together a blueprint for me to be successful, and I followed it."

His cousin, Brandon Peoples, transferred from Abington last year and helped spark the Vikings as a fullback and defensive end. "We've always been close," Desmon Peoples said. "All of this has brought us even closer."

The Rutgers commit, selected by coaches as the Catholic League Class AAA most valuable player, sat out two games early this season with a high ankle sprain. "That gave me a hunger to get back out there and finish strong," he said.

Peoples was criticized by some for bouncing from school to school. He started out at Cheltenham, switched to St. Joseph's Prep for a season, and then moved to Wood last year.

"I thought it was best for me to do what I did," he said. "Those were decisions I had to make. And, fortunately, things worked out for me in the end."

In April, Peoples orally committed to Rutgers. Kent State, Pittsburgh, and Temple were among the runners-up.

"What I like best about Rutgers is how genuine the coaches are," he said. "They don't view a football player as just an athlete. They also want their players to be successful off the field."

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019, robrien@phillynews.com, or @ozoneinq on Twitter. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at www.philly.com/ozone