With Archbishop Wood trailing at halftime, coach Steve Devlin didn't have any magic potions or complicated speeches. Last season, his team faced a long bus ride back to Warminster after losing in the final.
Not this season. The Vikings claimed their second PIAA Class AAA championship in 3 years with a 22-10 victory over Harrisburg's Bishop McDevitt.
"We played well in the first half," Devlin said. "But we didn't play up to our standards, and I told them they had a half to make memories for themselves."
Jarrett McClenton took that to heart. Actually, he etched his name into the record books with a 40-carry, 238-yard performance.
The junior's effort broke the AAA championship record set by Wood's Andrew Guckin (178) last season. He also added rushing TDs of 4 and 15 yards.
"It's great," McClenton said. "We wanted to make memories. I love every single one of them, so I just wanted to make a great memory with them."
Not even the 40-carry workload (24 against Berwick was his previous high) could weaken his enthusiasm. Well, not yet . . .
"I feel great right now," McClenton said, "I might be feeling it tomorrow!"
McDevitt's Andre Robinson rushed 14 times for 59 yards, but only 16 came after the Crusaders' first drive. He added an 83-yard kickoff TD late in the fourth.
The Crusaders nabbed early momentum by pounding the turf ground behind 43 early rushing yards by Robinson. The 5-11, 205-pounder actually scooted for a 12-yard score off the right side, but an illegal-formation penalty negated the play.
The Vikings' defense held firm and left the Crusaders with a 33-yard field goal by Bobby Zwigart.
The Wood defense, which was push backward on McDevitt's early drive, acquitted itself well for the half's remainder. Robinson finished the half with just 50 yards. Jake Cooper, Chris Gary and Tyrone Dean each tallied first-half sacks that cost McDevitt 28 yards.
Gary finished with two sacks and four tackles. Dean added four tackles, while Cooper claimed five.
Offensively, McClenton rushed for 80 yards in the first half. However, an early fumbled exchange between QB Tom Garlick and running back Josh Messina halted a scoring chance at the Crusaders' 30.
McDevitt also added two sacks in a half when the most exciting offensive play was a leaping, one-handed snag by Zwigart on a bad snap.
In fact, Zwigart was the first-half MVP with punts of 59 and 47 yards. He finished with two punts inside the 20, and one at the 3.
Unfortunately for the Crusaders, Wood marched 21 plays for 97 yards and a momentum-seizing touchdown by McClenton.
That mammoth drive was kept alive by Garlick's only two completions of the game. In fact, the Vikings rushed 62 times and passed just thrice.
Garlick hit Kendall Singleton on a third-and-13 and then hit Josh Messina on a fourth-and-7. Both went for first downs. The drive ended with a 1-yard Garlick sneak for a 14-3 lead.
"First half was bad on my part," the sophomore said. "A great route by Kendall Singleton and I just tried to make the best of it I could."
Garlick stopped and surveyed as the Wood faithful celebrated in the stands.
"This is the best feeling you could ever imagine," he said. "I wouldn't trade it for the world."
It was all about making memories.
Senior offensive lineman Deion Oliver will cherish his. In the second half, the offensive line dominated up front while McClenton diced his way into the record books. The line included Tom Cardoza, Jack Kenney and Ryan Bates.
"The second half we took it to them and we really took it personally," Oliver said. "Being a senior it's a great accomplishment. We've been working for this all year and it's great to finally get it done."
Oliver owns a 3.7 GPA and said he has received some interest from I-A and I-AA schools, although the Buckingham native is also eyeing Ivy League schools.
Back to that long bus ride after a 24-14 loss to Erie Cathedral Prep last season. Well, not so much this time.
"It's going to be great," McClenton said. "It's not going to feel that long this time."