WARMINSTER >> Archbishop Wood’s longest gain of the night came on an untimed down after time had expired.
The preceding 48 minutes — and the game — all belonged to Paramus Catholic.
The Vikings, defending 5A State Champions and ranked second in this week’s Pa. Prep Live Top 20, could get little going in a waterlogged 34-14 defeat to the Paladins Saturday night at William Tennent High School.
“We have to get better as a team,” said Vikings coach Steve Devlin. “Nothing’s given to us. We have a lot of work to do.”
Wood never found an answer for Paramus Catholic quarterback Shelton Applewhite, who completed 8-of-15 passes for 141 yards and four scores.
His final TD throw of the evening came midway through the fourth quarter, when tight end Henry Pearson hauled in the short toss, spun away from a tackle and charged into the end zone, lifting the Paladin lead to 34-7 just as the rain returned in waves.
“We had been working all summer for it and tonight was the night to let everything out,” the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Applewhite said with a big smile, as the Paladins — the defending Non-Public Group 4 State Champs from New Jersey — opened their season in impressive fashion.
“We didn’t throw the ball as much as we wanted to tonight because of the rain and the weather and the ball got heavy,” said Applewhite, who is drawing serious interest from Rutgers, “but we capitalized on what we could do tonight.”
Despite the rain, Applewhite still had plenty of touch on the deep ball, and his 38-yard touchdown pass to Mohammed Toure opened the scoring a little over five minutes into the contest.
The Paladins (1-0) doubled their lead on their next series, with Applewhite swinging a pass to running back Jonathon Clark for a seven-yard score and a 14-0 advantage.
The first touchdown was set up by an Archbishop Wood fumble, the second TD coming after a 10-yard punt by the Vikings.
“You can’t do that against a good team,” Devlin said. “You just can’t do that.”
Early in the second quarter, the Vikings (1-1) came to life.
Wood went 80 yards in nine plays, the drive kickstarted by a 34-yard burst by running back Nasir Peoples (14-88 yds). Peoples then gained 15 and later churned his way for a first down on 3rd-and-3.
With a 3rd-and-Goal at the two, Adrian Lambert found a crease and got over the goal line to put the Vikings on the board, slicing the margin in half to 14-7.
After a punt by both teams, however, Applewhite again found Toure deep, hitting him for a 31-yard score and a 21-7 Paladin lead. The throw eluded the outstretched hand of a Viking defender in coverage and Toure kept his concentration, made the grab, and spun around to race into the end zone.
Again, the Paladins were set up in prime position, following a 14-yard punt by Wood.
Said Devlin: “Short fields kill you.”
Paramus Catholic dominated the third quarter, running off 19 plays to Wood’s seven. The versatile Pearson powered his way into the end zone on a one-yard rush, boosting the lead to 27-7, and then a time-consuming, 71-yard drive by Paramus drained the third-quarter clock.
The drive ended with a 27-yard field goal attempt banging off the left upright, but then the Paladins put things to rest on their next possession, with Applewhite connecting with Pearson.
“You love it. I was happy I got to travel with the guys and we were just talking, bonding,” Applewhite said of his team’s successful trip over state lines. “And then when we took the field, it was time to lock in and get ready.”
Wood, which travels to New Jersey next week to take on Bergen Catholic, capped the scoring when quarterback Jack Colyar threw a 44-yard score to Ryan Loughlin after time had expired. Paramus Catholic had been called for a personal foul on the prior play, resulting in an untimed down for the Vikings.