**Note: This article originally published on PaPrepLive.com**
WARMINSTER — When you’re the two-time defending PIAA Class AAA state champions, you don’t always have to be your sharpest on offense at the start to go home with a dominating win.
It’s good to be Archbishop Wood.
“I thought we did some good things out there,” Wood head coach Steve Devlin said. “We gotta get better in a lot of aspects. But we’re a young team, we’re learning to play the right way, play together.”
When the first quarter ended Wood found themselves up just 7-0, but a 28-point second quarter put the game to bed en route to a 49-8 victory over Prep Charter.
The Vikings scored four touchdowns in the final 6:45 of the first half, behind three Anthony Russo passing TDs and a Shawn Thompson score on the ground. Mark Webb and Raheem Blackshear each hauled in a score from the Rutgers-bound QB, and the first half finished with a bang as Mike Devlin brought in a 1-handed touchdown in the back corner of the end zone with 11 seconds to go in the half.
Blackshear was the offensive star for Archbishop Wood, picking up 68 yards on the ground and adding 90 in the receiving game.
“He’s a back that we can do a lot of different things [with],” Devlin said. “We can hand him the ball, we can line him up in the slot…we had to put him in a lot of different spots and we’ll be a better team because of it.”
“It was a great night, me coming out,” Blackshear added. “Ant Russo being as good as he is; we started off slow but he jumped back on his horse. It was a great night.”
Despite the slow start, Archbishop Wood was simply given too many chances to pass on in the first half. The ball was never spotted in Wood territory during the first 24 minutes, as the Vikings started their five scoring drives on the Prep Charter 32, 25, 38, 35, and 47. A sixth drive of the first half started on the Prep 27, but was quickly halted when Prep’s Kareem Dennis intercepted Russo.
The defense was solid for Wood as well. The Vikings recorded three sacks in the first half (two in the first quarter); from Anthony Diodato, Mack Schwartz, and Matt Palmer. Thanks in part to those sacks, which included a fourth by Pat Carroll in the second half, Prep Charter had -16 yards passing as a team for the game.
The three-time state champions also forced a fumble on the first drive of the game, which was recovered by Gianni Cruel. That set up the first score of the game in the form of Thompson’s first rushing TD of the game.
In the second half Wood decided to establish dominance on the ground and finish out the game. Despite a running clock, the Vikings still found the end zone twice on touchdowns by Blackshear and Eric Bauer. Wood rushed for 123 yards as a team in the second half and 176 for the game.
The lone score for Prep Charter came on their final drive of the game, which started at Wood’s 30 thanks to a nice return of a kickoff. Huskies’ quarterback Peter Gaye punched in a 1-yard touchdown run, and an Anthony Thomas 2-point conversion finished off the game’s scoring at 49-8.
Running back Quadir Strothers was the offensive standout for Prep, gaining 40 yards total (32 on the ground). The Huskies ended with just 58 total yards.
“[Prep Charter is] a very good team with a lot of good athletes,” Devlin said. “They’re very well coached. I respect [Prep coach] Dave [Hand] more than most people around.”
Wood will look to continue their dominating play against West Catholic Thursday, September 24 at 5 pm. The game will be played at Northeast Public High School.