HERSHEYPARK STADIUM houses conflicting memories for Archbishop Wood junior Jarrett McClenton.
As a freshman, the 5-8, 160-pound running back/defensive back watched as the 2011 Vikings nabbed state glory by whitewashing Harrisburg's Bishop McDevitt, 52-0, for the AAA crown.
However, McClenton was on the field last season when the repeat feat went begging, 24-14, against Erie Cathedral Prep.
So, after last weekend's victory over Berwick clinched a third trip, McClenton was happy, but it still wasn't the celebration he wanted.
He even tried to dissuade teammates who were plotting a water-dump on head coach Steve Devlin.
"I was like no, we shouldn't do that because it's not the championship," McClenton said.
He couldn't remember if coach took the sideline bath or not, but fresh on his mind was last season's disappointment.
"Nobody wanted to talk to anybody," McClenton said of the locker room and trip home.
"We talked about it in the beginning of the season. We didn't want to lose like that again."
One rematch was thwarted when the Crusaders outlasted Cathedral Prep, 48-42, in their semifinal conquest. Now, McDevitt will seek revenge when it faces Wood, Friday at 7 p.m.
McClenton answered "kinda" when asked if his team wanted redemption against Cathedral Prep, but in the end, "We don't really care who we play," he said, "we just want to win."
The junior captain likely will be a huge cog in any championship machinations. He is, after all, the Catholic League AAA MVP with 1,467 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns this season. You can add two more scores in the air (one was a pick-6).
"Coach is always looking for me to make plays," the 17-year-old from Bensalem said.
A 172-yard, two-touchdown day on just 24 carries (7.1 per) helped Wood barrage Berwick, 42-14, last weekend. Senior Luke Spahits doubled his pleasure with twin 75-yard touchdown returns. McClenton added a 56-yard punt return, which also set up another score.
McClenton said there's no secret formula to his open-field shiftiness. He just tries to catch defenders leaning the wrong way. Then poof. . .
"I like making people miss," he said. "I feel like that's the easiest way to get to the end zone."
Speed runs in the family. His older brother, Jeff, 27, played football and ran track at Conwell-Egan. Jarrett runs the 200 meters and competes in the long jump for Wood.
These days, championship dreams are running through his mind, especially after getting a taste as a freshman.
"I just knew that I wanted to have that when I got to varsity," he said.
In last year's title bout, McClenton said a few blown assignments led to some easy scores. He expects thorough practices this week, and plenty of film work. He started watching right after Devlin uploaded the video Sunday night.
"Always work hard during practice every day because there's always someone that's working just as hard," he said.
"We want to win it really badly because we know what that feeling of losing is like," McClenton said. "And, we don't want that same feeling as last year."
Imhotep sophomore Rahmir Johnson had surgery yesterday to repair a broken leg sustained in Saturday's victory against Berks Catholic, which made the Panthers the first Public League school to compete for a PIAA championship.
Fellow soph running back Tyliek Raynor said the team rallied after the injury, which somewhat halted play.
"We just said we're gonna win the game for Rahmir," Raynor said. "He runs really hard and he never takes any plays off."
"He's just a young man that goes 100 miles an hour," said head coach Albie Crosby. "He and his family are in our prayers . . . we want to bring this thing home to him."
When Imhotep faces South Fayette, Saturday at noon in Hershey, Johnson might be in attendance . . .