WARMINSTER >> Raheem Blackshear was not a part of Archbishop Wood’s state title football team last year.
Blackshear, known to many as “Speedy” was at Father Judge last year while the Vikings celebrated in Hershey. Now, Blackshear is becoming a big reason why Wood thinks it can be back in the sweetest city in PA celebrating another PIAA title.
The junior was the offensive catalyst for the Vikings as they cruised to a 35-7 win over Archbishop Ryan in the PCL Class AAA title game at William Tennent. The title was Wood’s 13th overall and its eighth consecutive league title under coach Steve Devlin.
Blackshear, who earlier this year set a PCL record with a seven touchdown game, rushed for 97 yards and two scores and added another on a 45-yard screen play to end the first half.
“It was all in the run game, we had very good blocking,” Blackshear said. “I executed on that a little bit more. We’ve been working off our passing game, which has been our thing all year.”
Wood didn’t need senior quarterback Anthony Russo to have a big game, though the Rutgers committ did throw for two scores on his 123 yards passing. Instead, it was Blackshear and a motivated group of seniors that helped Wood to a 35-0 lead at the half and a running clock for the rest of the contest.
Senior Kurt Stengel, a Navy commit, was a big part of that effort at offensive and defensive tackle. After losing running back Jarrett McClinton to Villanova last year, the Vikings wanted to remind people they’re not one-dimensional and can do plenty running the ball.
“I wouldn’t want to say Jarret, but it is like (blocking for Jarrett),” Stengel said of Blackshear. “You give him anything and he’s got the speed to just breakaway. He makes plays for us and we just love blocking for him up front.”
Wood didn’t need very long to get going. After holding Ryan to a three-and-out, the Vikings scored on their first play when Jordan Johnson took a wideout reverse 59 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown.
Ryan punted again on its second possession and Wood again pounded the ball down the field with a heavy dose of Blackshear and Shawn Thompson. Blackshear capped the drive with a nine-yard run with 6:31 left in the first quarter.
“I’m learning a lot more,” Blackshear said. “I had to meet new people and make new friends but everyone has been very nice to me and it’s been good.”
Stengel said that while Blackshear is new, the rest of the team doesn’t treat him as a first-year Viking, but as a guy that’s been there with them all along.
With Russo off to a slow start in the passing game, the Vikings were fine keeping it on the ground and had a long drive branching the first and second quarters lead to a third score. Blackshear broke off a 41-yard run down to the Ryan five before plunging it in with 10:14 to go to extend the lead to 21-0.
The ensuing Raider drive saw another Wood senior step up in a big way.
Standing just 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Ryan Barrett doesn’t look like a defensive end. But tell that to Ryan quarterback Matt Romano, who was dragged down three times by Barrett in a span of five Raider snaps. Barrett got his first sack late in the first quarter on third down to force the punt preceding Blackshear’s second score.
After the touchdown, he hauled down Romano twice on the following drive. In all, his three sacks totaled 17 yards of loss.
“I worked on pass rush moves this whole week,” Barrett said. “I still have to get a lot better at that but I can hack the man and beat them with speed. It’s just straight speed. I can beat them upfield, spin inside, it has to be quick moves.”
Russo connected on one of his big plays the following drive, hitting Jimmy Gillespie for 44 yards and a touchdown to push the Vikings lead up to 28-0. Ryan finally sustained a drive but couldn’t get anything out of it, turning the ball over on downs with 1:27 to go on the Wood nine yard line.
The Vikings, thanks to a couple of big runs by Blackshear and Thompson, got to the Raider 45 and nearly got a score but the receiver couldn’t hang on to Russo’s pass in the endzone. With just 2.8 left on the clock, Russo hit Blackshear on a little screen to the right and “Speedy” did the rest, weaving his way into space and turning on the jets just as the buzzer sounded for a 45-yard score to make it 35-0 at the break.
“I’m from Somerton, which is a Ryan neighborhood so I know a lot of those guys,” Stengel said. “We wanted to come out and give them no life, just drive it down their throat and stop them on defense.
“Nobody thinks we can run this year because of all the guys we lost but when they line up against us, they’ll be surprised.”
Ryan scored on a late touchdown to break the shutout but Wood’s backups were able to run out the clock in the second half and keep the starters fresh for next week’s District 12 title game. The Vikings will play either Imhotep Charter or West Philadelphia next Saturday at Northeast High. Wood defeated Imhotep in last year’s game and expected a rematch.
While celebrating with the PCL trophy. Russo reminded his teammates it was just the first of their three goals. No. 2 comes next week with the city title, and the District 12’s lone bid to states, on the line.
Wood can score points, but the outcome of next week’s game may hinge on which defense can force an extra stop or two. Based on Friday, the Vikings will go in confident in theirs.
“We’re strong, we come prepared, watch film everyday and we know our opponent well,” Barrett said. “We contribute a lot to this team, this defense.”
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