WHITEMARSH >> The Archbishop Ryan fans on the far side of Colonial Field stayed bundled and rarely removed their hands from their pockets on Saturday afternoon. Not just because the winds and temperatures kept them cold, but because Archbishop Wood did not give them much to clap about.
The loudest cheer from the Red Raiders faithful came in the second quarter when they finally picked up their first, first down of the Philadelphia Catholic League 5A championship game. By that point, the Vikings held a five score lead and was in total control on their way to a 41-7 victory.
“Any time we can come out and control things it is good,” Vikings coach Steve Devlin said. “They tried crossing patterns on us and we were ready for that. We had two defensive touchdowns and that makes it easier on our offense.”
The Vikings scored six touchdowns in the first half while the Red Raiders recorded first downs on three occasions. With the mercy clock ticking in the second half the Raiders Jason Jefferson did score with under five minutes left in the contest to avoid the shutout.
The Vikings starters were rested for the entire second half as they prepare for Simon Gratz or Frankford in the city championship next weekend. The city championship is where the Vikings’ season ended a last year, a 20-14 loss to Imhotep Charter in the AAA final.
“Everybody is looking forward to the (city championship),” running back Shawn Thompson said. “Everybody keeps saying that we are not going to stumble again. Our coaches say take every game like it’s the last.”
In one half of action the running back tandem of Thompson and Raheem Blackshear shed off would-be tacklers time after time. Thompson and Blackshear each had a pair of scores and the Vikings duo rushed for 138 yards on nine carries before being rested. Blackshear had a 61 yard dash that secured a running clock for the entire second half.
“We want to spread the ball out,” Blackshear said. “It was working today with the run. Shawn had a couple great runs and it was a good game.”
The Red Raiders, who lost 31-6 earlier in the season, knew their execution would need to be near perfect to pull off the upset on Saturday. They tried to ride their junior running back Jaye McNeil to victory, but the Vikings stout defense had it covered and made the Red Raiders one dimensional. McNeil finished with 109 yards, gathering much of his numbers in the second half against the Vikings second and third string defense.
“If you get up and the other team has play from behind it helps,” Devlin said. “It forces a team to go in the direction you want them to go.”
The one-dimensional offense resulted in two defensive touchdowns. Matt Palmer had a 62-yard fumble recovery for a score and Tyler Smith’s 22-yard interception return for a touchdown set the tone for the game on the Raiders’ first offensive series.
“I read the ball in the air and it was pretty clean to the end zone,” Smith said. “We came out here stuck to our assignments and believed in our coaches. Every week we have to come out here and play our best,” Smith said. “We cannot take any game for granted.”
The Red Raiders junior quarterback Chris Reed finished the afternoon 2-for-14 with two interceptions. The team collectively finished with total 135 yards. The Vikings know they need another defensive effort in seven days like this one, if they are going to make it eight District 12 titles in the last nine seasons.
“We are going to make sure we have a great week of practice,” Devlin said. “We are going to make sure we are ready and we are not looking ahead. The only thing that matters to us is having a good week of practice and getting ready for Gratz or Frankford.”