HERSHEY, Pa. - Archbishop Wood coach Steve Devlin acknowledged that his halftime talk, with the Vikings struggling mightily to gain rushing yardage, was "a little louder than usual."
Whatever Devlin said, the players - in particular, the offensive line - responded.
Wood netted 184 yards rushing and three touchdowns after the break and downed Bishop McDevitt of Harrisburg, 22-10, Friday night at Hersheypark Stadium to win the PIAA Class AAA state football championship.
Junior tailback Jarrett McClenton benefited from the up-front turnaround. The 5-foot-7, 170-pounder carried the ball 40 times for 238 yards and two touchdowns.
"Coach Devlin came in [at halftime], said we could play a lot better than we were playing," Wood two-way back Luke Spahits said. "We came out, were more physical, and executed plays like we were supposed to."
Wood, which fell to Erie Cathedral Prep by 24-14 in last year's final, captured its second state title in three seasons. The Vikings became the first District 12 squad to capture multiple crowns.
"It's an amazing feeling," Vikings senior defensive end Chris Gary said. "We wanted this bad, especially after losing last year. That's something you don't want to experience again."
In the second half, McClenton rushed 24 times for 158 yards. He was held to 80 yards on 16 tries before intermission.
"We didn't come out and run the ball like Wood usually does," said Devlin, who improved his career record to 84-16. "We just wanted to start moving the chains, get into good field position."
The highlight for the Catholic League powerhouse was a 21-play scoring series spanning the third and fourth quarters that covered 97 yards and lasted 12 minutes, 6 seconds.
The impressive drive, capped by quarterback Tommy Garlick's 1-yard keeper, gave the Vikings (13-2) a 14-3 advantage.
Trailing by 3-0 at intermission, Wood took the second-half kickoff and marched 72 yards on 11 plays. McClenton turned a left-side toss into a 4-yard score.
The Vikings' stout offensive line included Ryan Neher, Ryan Bates, Deion Oliver, Tom Cardoza, Shawn Scrogger, Jack Kenney, and tight ends Jake Cooper, Christian Lohin, and Nafeez Brown-Carter.
"We came out in the second half and punched them right in the mouth," said Bates, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound junior tackle and Division I prospect.
Wood's defense, with assistant Mike Carey as the coordinator, held junior tailback Andre Robinson to 59 yards on 14 attempts. Robinson came in averaging 9.3 yards per carry.
"Coach Carey called a great game," Devlin said. "He's the best coach around, in my mind."
In helping hold the Crusaders (14-2) to 111 yards, Gary posted five tackles, including two sacks. Spahits, Cooper, and Tyrone Dean were next in line with four tackles apiece.
Archbishop Wood 0 0 7 15 – 22
Bishop McDevitt 3 0 0 7 – 10
BM: FG Bobby Zwigart 33
AW: Jarrett McClenton 4 run (Dan McDonald kick)
AW: Tom Garlick 1 run (McDonald kick)
AW: McClenton 15 run (Christian Lohin pass from Cody Fitzpatrick)
BM: Andre Robinson 82 kickoff return (Zwigart kick)