HERSHEY, Pa. – It didn’t take Archbishop Wood long to unleash its relentless and overpowering rushing attack on Gateway.
The Vikings scored on three of their first nine carries, totaled 291 yards and five scores on 28 first-half attempts, and buried the severely over-matched Gators, 49-14, in Friday night’s PIAA Class 5A final at HersheyPark Stadium.
Steve Devlin’s squad, which raced to a 21-0 advantage in the first quarter and was in front by 42-0 at intermission, captured its fifth state championship in five seasons.
“Every year is exciting because it’s a new group, and you get to see the sacrifice and the hard work the kids put into it,” Devlin said.
Fullback Adrian Lambert opened the floodgates with a 19-yard touchdown dash less than three minutes into the lopsided contest, and tailback Nasir Peoples followed with scoring bursts of 68, 2 and 15 yards to make it 28-0 early in the second frame.
The Catholic League and District 12 champs tacked on two more scores, quarterback Jack Colyar’s 6-yard pass to tight end Kyle Pitts and Lambert’s 5-yard run, before the break.
Peoples (19 carries for 197 yards) and Lambert (seven for 66) accounted for the bulk of the ground success in the opening 24 minutes.
While setting a record for the biggest first-half cushion in a state final, Wood’s defense limited District 7’s Gateway, which was making its first appearance in a final, to 15 yards rushing on 11 tries and 71 passing.
After losing to Catholic League Red Division rival and Class 6A finalist St. Joseph’s Prep on Sept. 15, the Vikings (12-2) won their last 10 games by a combined score of 432-117.
As a result of the 35-point mercy-rule, a running clock took effect at the start of the second half. Peoples’ fourth score of the chilly night, a 13-yard run midway through the third stanza, put the helpless Gators (14-2) in a 49-0 hole.
Clearing the way for Peoples (26 carries for 266 yards) and Lambert (10 for 97 and two scores) were center Tommy Walsh, guards Brett Gross and Albert Glasgow, tackles Luke Stengel, Connor Bishop and Bill Cook, and ends Pitts and Billy Shaeffer.
Gateway, of suburban Pittsburgh, averted a shutout when Brady Walker connected with wideout Travis Thompson for a 69-yard TD midway through the third stanza. The two hooked up for an 80-yard strike in the fourth.
Walker hit 12 of 26 throws for 257 yards against Wood but was intercepted three times. Pitts, also an end on defense, had a pair of picks, and cornerback Kevin Otto accounted for the other.
“It means a lot to finish my high school career with a state-championship win,” said the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Pitts, who will continue his career at Florida. “Not too many players can say that.”
Peoples, who is projected to play safety at Virginia Tech, carried 233 times for 1,837 yards and 29 TDs this season.
Gateway 0 0 7 7 – 14
Archbishop Wood 21 21 7 0 – 49
AW: Adrian Lambert 19 run (Bob Hennessey kick)
AW: Nasir Peoples 68 run (Hennessey kick)
AW: Peoples 2 run (Hennessey kick)
AW: Peoples 14 run (Hennessey kick)
AW: Kyle Pitts 6 pass from Jack Colyar (Hennessey kick)
AW: Lambert 5 run (Hennessey kick)
AW: Peoples 13 run (Hennessey kick)
G: Travis Thompson 69 pass from Brady Walker (Jayson Jenkins kick)
G: Thompson 80 pass from Walker (Jenkins kick)