By Brendan Monahan
WARMINSTER >> Archbishop Wood High School defeated Pope John XXIII High School 22-20 in a thriller Saturday night.
Wood led John XXIII 16-13 with a majority of the second quarter left. Wood took the ball to the 41-yard line after a boot from John XXIII kicker early in the second quarter. This led to an easy first down on two plays that started a drive into John XXIII territory. The Vikings mixed the play calls with both run and pass.
An injured Chris Blackstone, the Vikings tailback, gave more playing time to Tom Santiago. Archbishop Wood coach Kyle Adkins said Blackstone suffered from a “bruised leg.” This caused Santiago to fill his place.
“He’s a tough kid,” said Adkins of Santiago. “He runs hard. We’ll need him as the season progresses.”
A Santiago run caused cheers from the crowd. He notched a 40-yard touchdown in the first quarter on his third carry with several other big runs. Santiago provided a spark for the Vikings all night as he combined a unique blend of speed and strength.
The running back had a 61-yard run to the 19-yard line, but nothing materialized on the drive. Santiago delivered the game-winning play, providing a touchdown run with around 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the Vikings missed the extra point. The score became 22-20 Wood. This remained the deciding touchdown. John XXIII couldn’t capitalize on its final opportunity.
“As soon as I caught the catch, I saw the hole wide open, and I just took it,” Santiago said. “Then, a couple defenders got to me, but I broke the tackles, and I got in.”
Wood led 16-13 over John XXIII at halftime and rode its tailback most of the game. The Vikings sealed the contest with his fourth-quarter touchdown and multiple runs. Blackstone ran the ball early within the 10-yard-line, but the Lions pushed Wood backward. The Vikings used their full slate of talent to march down the field on the drive.
A 70-yard-run by Pope John XXIII pushed it close to the 20-yard-line. Hroncich threw a perfect ball in the corner of the endzone, and the Lions tacked on the extra point for the 20-16 lead with just over seven minutes left in the third quarter. Hroncich’s speed was on full display after a big run brought John XXIII to the enemy’s 32-yard-line.
John XXIII took over deep in its territory with just several minutes to play in the third quarter. Wood quarterback Jake Ross handed the ball off several times before the end of the third quarter, but nothing came to fruition. Wood recovered a fumble on the 31-yard-line at the beginning of the fourth.
To begin the third quarter, Dylan Urbanowski of Wood provided a sack on third down and set up a John XIII drive starting from the 38-yard line. He also forced a fumble in the first quarter. John XIII almost blocked a punt with a majority of the third quarter remaining.
After the stagnant second quarter, Urbanowski said the team started communicating better.
“Our offense put the pedals on,” Urbanowski said.