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Archbishop Wood handles business in District 12-AAA title game

PHILADELPHIA >> Consider it a business trip of sorts for Archbishop Wood.

The Vikings boys soccer team traveled to Northeast High School Thursday evening needing a win to advance to the PIAA tournament. Wood was heavily favored to beat Franklin Towne Charter in the District 12-AAA final, but they couldn’t just show up and win.

So, the Vikings handled business and made it a successful trip with a thorough 6-0 win over the Warriors.

“We take no one lightly at this point in the year,” Wood coach Hugh Kelly said. “With the weather conditions, it could have been a blowing monsoon or something but it held off for us. We were pretty effective but it’s tough, you don’t know a lot about your opponents.”

Wood had been idle since falling to La Salle in a penalty kick shootout in the Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals last week, but the Vikings had been training hard to stay sharp. The longer a team like Franklin Towne sticks around, the more tense the game gets, so Wood was committed to getting out fast.

The Vikings did just that when Chris Baker punched in an assist from RJ Liszewksi not even eight minutes into the contest. Wood also added two goals by Mike Smith, the second assisted by Baker, before the half as it put a firm control on the match.

Franklin Towne was totally shut down on the offensive end, not getting a shot on goal until the last few minutes and at times unable to even advance the ball past midfield.

“It was important in the beginning to put one away because a lot of games this year we saved it until late in the second half against some weaker teams,” Baker said. “It was good for us to get one early.”

Baker said he and his teammates kept their focus for the entire match and they didn’t want to ease off the pressure or get sloppy. Even though they were dominating, Franklin Towne only needed one mistake to get back in the game.

That mistake never materialized and even as an ominous, large black cloud rolled in, the rain never fell. Wood did keeping scoring however, with Ryan Miller, Jake Maier and Justin Getz all putting away a goal in the second half.

“We tried to keep everything forward, we didn’t want to mess around in the back,” Maier, a defender, said. “We didn’t want anything stupid that would lead to a turnover and then a goal for them. We just wanted to keep pushing everything forward.”

The PIAA’s expansion helped the Vikings as they stayed in AAA while La Salle, Roman Catholic and Father Judge all jumped up to the new AAAA. Wood will face District 3 runner-up Gettysburg in the first round of the state tournament Tuesday at a place and time yet to be determined.

Wood goes into the state bracket as a tested team, both in its league and against a grueling non-league slate. The Vikings really rounded into form the last four weeks and will look to keep it going as they gear up for the “second season” in states.

“As much as the Catholic League helps, all our non-league games, the teams we played are mostly in Suburban One and that’ll help us a little bit,” Kelly said. “We get to start all over again tomorrow.”

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