Archbishop Wood chasing three-peat while reloading

WARMINSTER — When Archbishop Wood celebrated its second straight PIAA Class AAA title in Hershey last December, it did so knowing that a lot of the key players in that run would be gone a few months later.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Archbishop Wood's Leroy Pendleton runs the ball during practice Aug 19, 2015.
Archbishop Wood’s Leroy Pendleton runs the ball during practice on Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

Indeed, the Vikings had 10 players continue on to play college football, plus a handful of other seniors that wouldn’t be around come the start of camp in August. For many programs, that would be a crippling loss.

For Wood, it’s time for the next guy in line on the depth chart to step up. If he’s not ready, then the guy behind him will be given the chance.

Once again, the Vikings enter the season with high expectations, but also realistic ones.

“We have a lot of players with varsity experience and while it’s hard to replace some of those kids we lost, every year you’re teaching young kids the things they need to step up,” Vikings coach Steve Devlin said. “Our first goal is to win the Catholic League championship. Without that, we don’t get anywhere. It’s our first goal, our immediate goal and that’s what we’re striving for.”

As usual, everything starts in the trenches for the Vikings. Navy commit Kurt Stengel anchors the offensive line along with Omar Peterkin, Matt Arcidiacono, Mike Hoelsworth and Jason Barish to put a formidable wall in front of quarterback Anthony Russo.

Russo, who threw for 25 TDs a year ago, is signed with Rutgers and coming off an offseason that saw him star at several prestigious camps, including the Elite 11 quarterback competition. The senior quarterback also has a top target back in the form of Mark Webb, a junior with several college offers.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Archbishop Wood coach Steve Devlin ends practice early Aug 19, 2015 because of Wednesday's torrential rain.
Archbishop Wood coach Steve Devlin ends practice early on Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 because of Wednesday’s torrential rain. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

On the other side of the ball, Peterkin and Pat McCann anchor Mac Schwartz, Adrian Lambert and Anthony Diodato on the defensive line. Still, at Wood, no position is ever guaranteed.

“Our coaches have done a phenomenal job with that, we make practice a competition every day,” Devlin said. “You might be starting today and you might not be starting tomorrow depending on what you did in practice. You’re competing for your job and it makes practices good and keeps them from looking ahead.”

Last season, Wood had a strong ground game, so Russo often wasn’t called upon to win his team a game. But after a strong summer and in his second year with the offense, Devlin thinks he’ll be able to use the senior’s talents in a more diverse way this year.

Devlin likes his team’s strength up front, but also thinks it has plenty of athleticism to take advantage of as well.

“He had a great year for us last year but we didn’t need him to go out and do a lot of things,” Devlin said of Russo. “This year it’s a different dynamic. You can’t load up the box on us because we have guys on the outside who can make plays and he’s going to get the ball to them.”

Top Photo: Archbishop Wood quarterback Anthony Russo hands off to Shawn Thompson during practice on Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

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