By: John Knebels
Photos: Kathy Leister and Donna Eckert
PHILADELPHIA –Archbishop Wood and Bonner-Prendergast are not scheduled to play against each other this season.
That’s too bad.
Miles apart, both teams continued to make statements as this once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully) football season speeds toward the PIAA playoffs in a few weeks.
While senior quarterback Kyle Lazer and his surrounding cast were unstoppable in B-P’s 42-7 victory over Archbishop Ryan, Archbishop Wood methodically took care of Roman Catholic, 28-7.
Both victors improved to 2-0; both teams on the losing ledger fell to 0-2.
“The pace is definitely getting back to normal now,” said Wood senior linebacker Shane Collier. “My team and I feel pretty good right now, but we still have a lot of work to do if we want the same outcome as last year. Just practicing every day, watching film, staying in the weight room, and trying to improve little by little every day.”
Collier was referring to the Vikings’ 2019 PIAA Class 5A state title. To garner another crown, Wood must maneuver through better competition since it now competes in Class 6A. So the Vikings need to defeat La Salle and defending 6A champion St. Joseph’s Prep to realize their lofty goals.
While still working out some kinks in an uncommonly fast-paced approach to improvement, Wood senior Ryan Woertz is not looking too far ahead.
“Some of the things that we are doing that are making us so successful is taking it game by game and focusing on our next opponent,” said Woertz. “There is a bunch of stuff that we can work on, but most importantly, we are not letting up when we have the lead. We just have to keep in playing like it’s 0-0.”
Against Roman, Wood’s four touchdowns were split evenly among the offense and defense. Senior quarterback Max Keller threw a scoring pass to Woertz and ran in another; seniors Nate Taylor and Rob Jackson each turned fumble recoveries into touchdowns.
On Saturday at William Tennent High School, the Vikings are scheduled to face St. Joseph’s Prep. A victory by the Hawks would clinch a postseason berth while a Vikings win would keep their PIAA tournament hopes alive.
“We are excited to have the chance not to only shock the state, but the country,” said senior two-way starter Kaelin Costello. “If we win, it will probably be one of the – if not the– greatest wins in the school’s history.”
In Archbishop Ryan’s one-sided loss to Bonner-Prendergast, the “0-0” part of the game did not last very long.
The Friars scored early and often. Lazer picked apart the Raiders’ inexperienced secondary and finished with 11 completions in 16 attempts for 212 yards and three long touchdown passes.
On a 49-yard scoring strike to senior Gaven Hunt, Lazer imitated Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz when he is at his best. Avoiding a Ryan blitz, Lazer rolled to his right and found Hunt alone at the 20. With a defender in pursuit, Hunt scampered the rest of the distance.
Lazer’s longest completion went for a 60-yard scoring strike to senior Ayden Garnes. Displaying his ability to stay in the pocket and make a quick decision, Lazer threw a long high spiral to a sprinting Garnes, who stopped, spun a 180, caught the ball at the 28, and outran Ryan’s secondary into the end zone. Lazer also connected with junior Armon Mapp on a 39-yard TD haul.
“I obviously love a nice clean pocket and time to look for a receiver, but rolling out is what I find to be the most dangerous because I can either run it for some yards, throw it to an open receiver, or try to make a big-time play,” said Lazer. “Also, I find myself sometimes throwing a better football on the run and under pressure than just being relaxed in the pocket.”
Nasiim Rhodes-Nelson and David Kpeglo recovered fumbles, juniors Damir Williams-Bey and Scott Bernhard-Kyle registered sacks, and Hunt grabbed an interception for the Friars, who have outscored their two opponents by 63-7.
Since the other Class 4A competitor, Cardinal O’Hara, has opted out of participating in the postseason, Bonner-Prendergast clinched a berth because Archbishop Ryan is the only other District 12 4A squad.
“It’s a weird feeling because we feel our season just started and now we have a post-season game,” said senior All-Catholic Jim Welde. “But it’s a great feeling, and we’re definitely excited to play.”
Bonner-Prendergast coach Jack Muldoon agreed.
“It feels great,” he said. “The kind of year it is . . . it’s tough to describe. But I guarantee the (NBA and MLB champions) Lakers and the Dodgers aren’t handing their trophies back.”
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)