By: John Knebels
Photos: Geanine Jamison
WARMINSTER, PA –It was late August, and it didn’t seem like there was going to be any high school football games this season. Well, at least not realistically.
Asked how he and his teammates were holding up despite the constant annoyance of the COVID-19 coronavirus that had already basically ruined an entire summer and now threatened to do the same to the fall, Archbishop Wood senior two-way standout Kaelin Costello admitted that it was difficult to keep an extended smile as a new school year approached.
“The preparation has been different in a couple ways,” said Costello. “The fact that I haven’t been with my teammates the whole summer and the closing of all gyms made it difficult, but I made due with what I had, and my coach gave us great workout programs. Also, we did a lot of Zoom calls, which I have never done before.
“The most disappointing aspect would be losing our senior year. It’s what you dream of as a kid and that would be terrible, not having a chance to win another state championship and also all the guys on my team, including me, that are right there in terms of Division I college football that wouldn’t get a chance to prove to everyone that they are good enough.”
Fast forward to October 17 at William Tennent High School…
Despite the bleak forecast less than two months earlier, Archbishop Wood was, indeed, playing an actual real-live football game. Not surprisingly, the nerves were plentiful, but once the first tackle was out of the way, Costello and his Viking teammates returned to typical form as the defending Class 5A state champions and overwhelmed Bishop McDevitt, 35-14.
“It felt great to be back out there with the guys after so much uncertainty,” said Costello, a running back and defensive back. “I loved hitting people again and balling out with my brothers.
“It was a great team win. It was way different for sure, less preparation time, more dings and bruises. It makes you realize how important summer camp really is, but nonetheless, it felt amazing to be back on the field.”
Costello reminisced about when he and his mates were told that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had changed course and would allow football to be played, albeit with an abbreviated schedule that would not include traditional Catholic League standings. Schools would, however, be permitted to ultimately compete for a PIAA state tournament berth in mid-November.
Now competing in Class 6A, Wood will have a significant challenge capturing another state crown with the likes of local giants St. Joseph’s Prep and La Salle standing in its way.
The Vikings will have plenty of time to worry about that in the upcoming weeks.
“We were ecstatic when we heard the news,” said Costello. “We all were so happy thankful that we were having a season and got straight to work. It almost felt surreal that we were actually playing because we’ve been told for so long that we weren’t.”
The Vikings used a touchdown run by Costello, a pair of touchdown passes from senior quarterback Max Keller to senior Ryan D’Ambra and senior Ryan Woertz, a touchdown sneak by Keller, and an interception touchdown return by senior Shane Collier to win comfortably.
Woertz’s scoring reception netted 45 yards and closed out the scoring for the Vikings.
“Scoring my first touchdown during this crazy time felt incredible,” said Woertz. “I didn’t realize how much I missed the game of football until I stepped out on the field with all my brothers.
“The most difficult transition was getting our bodies in shape for the season in short notice. The last couple weeks planning for the big game vs. McDevitt, we did a lot of running to make sure we were well conditioned.”
Most importantly, Wood’s players are doing what they love to do against other schools whose players are doing likewise.
But now, with such an abridged season, it’s serious business.
“Every game is a challenge, and there are no easy teams in the PCL,” said Woertz. “So every game, we just have to come out with the right mindset and win on all three phases – offense, defense and special teams.”
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)