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Archbishop Wood easily advances to state final

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The teams were the same as last year. The result, too.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The teams were the same as last year. The result, too.

And Josh Messina scored a rushing touchdown, exactly as he had done last season.

But for Archbishop Wood's junior running back, Friday night's 36-6 victory over Allentown Central Catholic in the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals was a lot different.

Last year, Messina got to play only in the fourth quarter as Wood routed Central Catholic, 70-14 in the semifinals. Friday, at Banko Field in Bethlehem, Messina didn't merely start - he ran the second offensive play 55 yards for a touchdown.

"It's a lot different to be able to start the game," Messina said.

"It's a lot different, [the] emotions. You know it is your team."

The Vikings will defend their AAA state title at 7 p.m. next Friday in Hershey, where they will face Erie Cathedral Prep, which defeated Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg) in the other semifinal.

Messina and senior Andrew Guckin dominated the first half of play for the Vikings, combining for 241 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.

Guckin's 140 yards on 10 carries and a TD gave him almost 1,800 yards rushing this season, with 29 touchdowns.

Messina had 101 yards rushing on eight carries, as well as 20 yards receiving. He had a rushing as well as a receiving touchdown.

Neither back played an offensive down in the second half.

But Messina and Guckin's presence wasn't felt just on the offensive end. Messina had two sacks for a combined loss of 20 yards, and Guckin had an interception late in the first half that put the Vikings within field-goal range.

Wood (12-2) has won eight straight games, averaging almost 45 points over that stretch. But it hasn't been just during regular-season contests that the Vikings have found immense success. They also won their first two state-playoff games in resounding fashion, beating Bok, 49-28, and Interboro, 35-7.

Entering Friday night's contest, a Wood win wasn't guaranteed, as Central Catholic (9-6) also had won its two state games decisively, defeating its opponents by a combined 51 points.

Then there was the matter of history, as these two teams are no strangers to meeting each other in high-stakes games.

In 2010, Central Catholic beat Wood in the state semifinals, 49-27, en route to a state title. The following year, Wood repaid the favor by defeating Central Catholic en route to its state championship.

Guckin said reaching the state final is "a huge accomplishment for us. It is what we set out to do at the beginning of the year."

Archbishop Wood   14 22 0 0 – 36

Allentown Cent. Cath.   0 0 6 0 – 6

AW: Josh Messina 55 run (Nick Visco kick)

AW: Andrew Guckin 10 run (Visco kick)

AW: Jarrett McClenton 55 run (kick failed)

AW: Chris Rahill 53 pass from Tom Garlick (Visco kick)

AW: Messina 7 pass from Garlick (pass failed)

AW: FG Visco 26

ACC: Colin McDermott 3 run (kick failed)