Archbishop Wood not satisfied in 44-30 win over Simon Gratz

WARMINSTER >> Much is expected of Archbishop Wood’s first-teamers from themselves and their coaching staff.

If the opportunity arises for Archbishop Wood to relieve some of its starters during a game, the expectation is that the reserves will compete with the same level of intensity and desire. While these reserves often come in during lopsided games, it’s their chance to gain experience, build depth and show the coaches what they can do.

Saturday night, the first team did its job by staking the Vikings to a big lead in an eventual 44-30 win over Simon Gratz. But the reserve team didn’t quite play up to those expectations, allowing the Bulldogs to do what they wanted a little too easily.

“We made some mistakes in the beginning but we were up and when you pull guys, the guys that go in have to make plays and have to produce,” Wood coach Steve Devlin said. “They give up two easy touchdowns. The game’s out of hand but they have to make plays.”

A pregame threat of heavy rain never materialized, but much of the first half was played in a light drizzle. Still, that didn’t stop Wood’s high-power offense from going to the air early.

Senior quarterback Anthony Russo connected with Jared Johnson for a 49-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Russo wasn’t as productive as he was a week ago against Allentown (N.J.), but the Rutgers-bound senior still threw for 202 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another.

As a captain and team leader, Russo has high standards of his own, and he was critical of his two interceptions among other things.

“It was sloppy and coming from me personally, I have to be a better leader,” Russo said. “Coming out here being sloppy, not making the right reads and throwing interceptions, if young guys see me doing stuff like that then they’re not going to feel as bad when they mess up.”

Tailback Jalen Reynolds accounted for the next two Wood scores, hooking up with Russo for a 17-yard strike then a 14-yard run in the second quarter. Reynolds left the game in the second half with what he called a minor left ankle sprain, but by that time, the score was tilted in Wood’s favor.

Dan Zanine added a 32-yard field goal as time expired in the first half as Wood took a 23-0 lead into the locker room.

Much of Wood’s success came from its offensive line, anchored by Navy commit Kurt Stengel. The line got great push even against Gratz’s sizable front and Russo said his protectors did a great job in camp and the offseason getting on the same page.

“We can throw and run,” Devlin said. “We hit that touchdown at the beginning of the game then we ground it out and picked up some yards, mixed it up a little bit. It’s a win against a very good team, they’re supposed to win the 4A in the city.”

Wood’s defense was also ferocious in establishing a 30-8 lead early in the third quarter. End Mack Schwartz and linebackers Matt Palmer and Sebastian Silva in particular created plenty of havoc.

After halftime, Gratz put wideout Javon Whitfield at quarterback and he helped the Bulldogs find some offense. But Wood still went up 37-8 when Raheem Blackshear took an end-around and went 59 yards for the touchdown.

The teams traded scores in rapid succession, with Luke White ripping off a 70-yard run for Gratz, matched by a great 59-yard catch-and-run by Mark Webb on a Russo pass, then another Gratz score when Whitfield hit Dedrick Parson for a 44-yard score.

Gratz had the final tally of the game when Whitfield ran the ball on a draw and went 27 untouched yards into the endzone.

The win marked Devlin’s 100th career victory, a number the coach had no idea of after the game.

“It means I’ve coached 100 games with a bunch of great kids and great coaches,” Devlin said.

Russo, who is one of dozens of players Devlin has helped go on to the college level, said while his coach can still be hard on him, they have a great relationship. The quarterback knows any time he thinks Devlin is being hard on him, it’s only for his benefit.

“I had no idea but I know I’d rather get him a better win than how we played tonight,” Russo said. “He’s one of the best high school coaches in the country. I’ll have to give him a hug and tell him that I’m proud of him.

“He’s just a perfectionist, he wants everything whether it’s in the weight room, film room or at practice to be 100 percent right. He demands perfection out of everybody and I think that’s what makes everyone have that success.”

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