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Inquirer football awards: Early tests proved highly beneficial for Archbishop Wood

After a 2-2 beginning, Archbishop Wood went on to win 10 straight games and capture its fifth state football championship.

Archbishop Wood players celebrate after beating Gateway, 49-14, for the PIAA Class 5A football championship.
Archbishop Wood players celebrate after beating Gateway, 49-14, for the PIAA Class 5A football championship.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON

Archbishop Wood challenged itself at the beginning of the season like never before, playing Oxbridge (Fla.) at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex and North Jersey powers Paramus Catholic and Bergen Catholic.

That was followed by a Catholic League Red Division opener against reigning PIAA Class 6A champion St. Joseph's Prep.

The Vikings went 2-2 in that stretch but reaped big dividends as a result of the stiff competition.

Steve Devlin's squad won its final 10 games by a combined score of 432-117, earned another Catholic League playoff crown, captured its ninth District 12 title in 10 seasons, and claimed statewide glory for the fifth time in the last seven years.

It closed a 12-2 campaign with an exclamation point, clobbering District 7's Gateway, 49-14,  in the Class 5A final at chilly HersheyPark Stadium.

For its dominance following a 27-7 loss to St. Joe's Prep on Sept. 15, Wood is the Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania football team of the year.

Wood also won state titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2016. In 11 seasons in Warminster, Devlin has compiled a 132-22-1 record (.857 winning percentage).

Coach of the year

Pat Clark guided Unionville to a 13-2 record, its third straight Ches-Mont League American Division championship, and its first district championship since 1994.

Spurred by do-everything type Joe Zubillaga and multipurpose threat J.T. Hower, the No. 3-seeded Indians surprised No. 1 Springfield-Delco, 35-25, in the District 1 Class 5A final.

Clark has posted a 116-42 record (.734 winning percentage) and won seven league titles — five in the Ches-Mont and two in the old Southern Chester County League — in 14 seasons at Unionville,

A  teacher at Unionville, Clark was an offensive lineman at since-closed St. James (class of 1987) in Chester and attended West Chester University. As a college sophomore, he became an assistant at St. James under Marty Moke.

Game of the year

St. Joseph's Prep outlasted Coatesville, 53-49, in a wild Class 6A semifinal at Downingtown West. The Hawks rallied after falling behind by 21-3 late in the second quarter and 28-10 early in the third.

The Red Raiders' Ricky Ortega completed 25 of 38 passes for 442 yards and six touchdowns in a losing cause.

Most improved player of the year

Zach DeMarchis, a second-year starter, passed for 1,766 yards and 17 TDs in leading Pennsbury to a 10-3 mark, second place in the Suburban One League National Conference, and the semifinal round of the District 1 Class 6A playoffs.

Also a shifty runner, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound southpaw netted 1,439 yards and 17 scores on the ground. In baseball, he is a utility man and pitcher.

Individual effort of the year

Avon Grove's Kevin Francis carried 50 times for 390 yards and five scores in a 38-17 home triumph over Ches-Mont National Division rival Downingtown West.

Small-school player of the year

In sparking New Hope-Solebury to a 9-2 record and the Bicentennial Athletic League title, Jesse Capriotti rushed 182 times for 2,478 yards (13.6 yards a carry) and 33 TDs. He also made six catches for  101 yards and a score.

Rookie of the year

Neumann-Goretti freshman free safety Tysheem Johnson made eight interceptions, including four in a District 1-12 Class 2A subregional semifinal win over Strawberry Mansion.