Archbishop Wood beats Simon Gratz for ninth District 12 title

Archbishop Wood’s Nasir Peoples carries Simon Gratz defenders Jawon Harrison (middle, airborne) and Terrell Stewart (hidden) for yardage in Saturday afternoon’s PIAA District 12 Class 5A football final.

Archbishop Wood’s offensive strategy against Simon Gratz was right up senior center Tom Walsh’s alley.

“The goal was to beat them off the ball every time and drive it down the field,” said Walsh, a stellar run blocker.

The Vikings ran the ball on 49 of 52 plays from scrimmage, netted 204 yards and five scores on the ground, and easily downed the Bulldogs, 36-6, in Saturday afternoon’s PIAA District 12 Class 5A final in a sporadic drizzle at Northeast.

Walsh is the second in his family to be a stalwart on Wood’s line. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder’s brother, Fran, played tackle and center. As a junior in 2011, Fran helped the Vikings go 14-1 and claim the squad’s first state title.

“Tom is bigger than Fran, but they both have the same great work ethic and technique,” Wood coach Steve Devlin said. “And like his brother, Tom is a kid you want to represent your program.”

Fran Walsh went on play defensive end at Villanova. “We have a similar playing style, and we’re both fierce competitors,” said Tom Walsh, a third-year starter who doubles as a defensive tackle.

The Walsh brothers have three siblings. Their father, Matthew, died from a brain tumor when Tom was 8 years old.

“Yeah, I still think about my dad a lot and try to honor his memory when I’m playing,” Tom Walsh said. The 17-year-old captain added that his mother, Colleen, “has been a great role model, does all she can to help us succeed in life.”

Wood (9-2) continues its bid to earn its fourth state crown in five years and fifth in seven with a quarterfinal matchup vs. District 2’s Wyoming Valley West (7-6) next weekend at a site and time to be determined.

Nasir Peoples, a tailback and Virginia Tech recruit, carried 23 times for 176 yards and four touchdowns against Gratz. “The game plan this week was to use heavy packages and keep running the ball,” he said.

Walsh was joined up front by guards Brett Gross and Albert Glasgow, tackles Luke Stengel, Connor Bishop, and Bill Cook, and ends Kyle Pitts, Billy Shaeffer, and Nasir Bowen. Adrian Lambert chipped in at fullback.

Peoples scored on runs of 8, 2, and 3 yards to give the Vikings a 20-0 advantage at the break. His 20th TD of the season came on an 8-yard, third-quarter burst.

The Vikings’ defense limited Gratz (8-4) to 12 yards rushing on 18 attempts. The Bulldogs’ Amir Gillis, a speedy quarterback, hit on 6 of 16 throws for 84 yards.

“He’s a very good athlete,” Devlin said of Gillis, a Temple recruit who also plays free safety. “He’s the guy that steers the ship for them.”

Walsh, who earned first-team all-Catholic League Red Division honors, has drawn recruiting interest from Columbia, Franklin and Marshall, and Villanova. The Warrington resident plans to major in business or engineering.

Simon Gratz 0 0 0 6-6

Archbishop Wood 7 13 13 3-36

AW: Nasir Peoples 8 run (Bob Hennessey kick)

AW: Peoples 2 run (Hennessey kick)

AW: Peoples 3 run (kick failed)

AW: Peoples 8 run (kick failed)

AW: Chris Blackstone 7 run (Hennessey kick)

AW: FG Hennessey 29

SG: Azyear Walker 11 run (run failed)