Archbishop Wood will try to capture its second straight state title when the Vikings take on Gateway in the PIAA-5A final at Hersheypark Stadium Friday night.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
The Vikings are coming off a 49-28 mercy-rule victory over Unionville while Gateway survived a 31-28 thriller over Manheim Central.
Wood enters the final on a nine-game win streak and is now 11-2 overall on the season. Gateway is 14-1, with a nine-game win streak coming in.
The Gators’ final push into the state final came off the foot of lefty kicker Jayson Jenkins, who booted a go-ahead, 23-yard field goal with 10 seconds to play against Manheim Central.
Gateway quarterback Brady Walker dominated the state semifinal contest with the Barons. Walker completed 36 of his 51 passes for 468 yards, throwing three touchdown strikes and also scoring on a quarterback keeper.
Walker hit speedy wideout Courtney Jackson 15 times for 264 yards and a pair of second-half scores.
The third leading passer in WPIAL history, Walker hit Jackson for a 61-yard TD strike late in the third quarter of Friday’s semi to tie the game at 21. On Gateway’s next drive, which started at the Gators’ own 1 after Central fumbled on the goal line, Walker lobbed a 66-yard touchdown pass to Jackson, giving the Gators their first lead, 28-21, with 10:07 to play.
Walker would eclipse the 4,000-yard-passing mark this season during the game.
Archbishop Wood’s 4-3-4 defense, which got standout performances from linebackers Tyler Smith and Matt Palmer along with defensive end Bill Shaeffer on Friday night, will try to limit the production of one of the state’s most prolific QB’s.
The Vikings were able to take away Unionville’s top weapons for the most part, doing so with a smothering defense along with an offense that dominated plays from scrimmage in the first half (35-16).
“If we can do that to a team, obviously it’s demoralizing for them,” said Vikings coach Steve Devlin. “We knew we had some shots we could take throwing the ball (with quarterback Jack Colyar), but we were successful running so we stayed with that formula.
“We wanted to keep (Unionville’s) offense off the field because they’re very explosive offensively, had the Player of the Year in the (Ches-Mont American Division in multi-threat Joe Zubillaga), and that (wide receiver/return man James Hower) is real explosive for them, so we wanted to limit their touches on the ball. We figured if we had the ball, that was the best way to do it.”
Familiar ground, uncharted territory
Archbishop Wood is making its sixth state final appearance in the past seven years.
The Vikings won the 3A state crown in 2011, 2013 and 2014, and then won 5A a season ago. Wood also reached the 3A State Final in 2012, falling to Cathedral Prep.
Gateway is making its first ever state-final appearance.