HERSHEY, Pa. - With Matt Rhule leaving Temple to take the head coaching job at Baylor, the Owls' eventual new boss and assistants will make it a priority to keep the program's top recruits.
That said, Archbishop Wood's Raheem "Speedy" Blackshear will probably be hearing a lot from the folks on North Broad Street prior to national signing day to make sure his commitment remains firm.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior rushed 35 times for 236 yards and three scores to spark the Vikings past District 3's Harrisburg, 37-10, in the PIAA Class 5A state final Friday night at HersheyPark Stadium.
"My linemen were pulling, knocking down players, and just opening up holes for me," Blackshear said. "Coach [Steve] Devlin pushes us to the max, and we know he's going to get the best out of us."
Because of the intense cold and strong winds, Wood concentrated on its ground attack and enjoyed major success. The Vikings (11-2-1) netted 392 rushing yards on 59 tries to capture its fourth state title in six seasons.
Of Blackshear, Devlin said, "He's done that for two years. Today, we were going to give him the ball, and that was going to be it. He's such a tremendous football player. He wanted this, and he wasn't going to let his team down."
Shawn Thompson, Blackshear's backfield partner, rushed 17 times for 135 yards. His 35-yard, fourth-quarter burst capped the scoring.
"Shawn and I are good friends, and we don't mind sharing the ball," Blackshear said. "We both want to capitalize when we do get it."
Paving the way for Blackshear and Thompson were center Tom Walsh, guards Albert Glasgow and Connor Bishop, tackles Matt Arcidiacono and Anthony Diodato, and ends Kyle Pitts and Bill Shaeffer.
After giving up a long score on the game's second play from scrimmage, the Vikings defense rebounded in stellar fashion.
The Cougars' touchdown came on Yahmir Wilkerson's 71-yard pass over the middle to Shaquon Anderson-Butts. Their only other tally was Joel Davis' 23-yard field goal late in the first half.
Wood responded to Harrisburg's early strike with a pair of first-quarter scores. Jack Colyar connected with Kyle Pitts for a 10-yard touchdown, and Blackshear sliced into the end zone from the 2.
Midway through the third quarter, following his 51-yard punt return, Blackshear found pay dirt from the 10 increase the lead to 23-10. His 4-yard dart early in the fourth was the clincher.
In holding the Cougars to 109 yards rushing and 139 passing, Wood's defense was spearheaded by linebackers Matt Palmer (nine tackles, with three solos) and Tyler Smith (eight, five), safety Nasir Peoples (eight, six), and end Adrian Lambert (eight, two).
Harrisburg junior Micah Parsons, a highly touted Penn State recruit who excels at running back and defensive end, carried 16 times for 81 yards and made six tackles.
Archbishop Wood 14 3 6 14 - 37
Harrisburg 7 3 0 0 - 10
H: Shaquon Anderson-Butts 71 pass from Yahmir Wilkerson (Joel Davis kick)
AW: Kyle Pitts 10 yards pass from Jack Colyar (Dan Zanine kick)
AW: Raheem Blackshear 2 run (Zanine kick)
AW: FG Zanine 26
H: FG Davis 23
AW: Blackshear 10 run (kick failed)
AW: Blackshear 4 run (Zanine kick)
AW: Shawn Thompson 35 run ( Zanine kick)