Wood claims division crown

Posted: November 01, 2009

Archbishop Wood reeled off three touchdowns in the second quarter yesterday to upend North Catholic, 24-7, and claim the Class AAA Catholic League Blue Division title at Wissahickon High School.

Wood senior quarterback Jerry Rahill rushed 13 times for 54 yards and two touchdowns and threw for a third score to senior running back Kevin Murt. All three touchdowns came in the second quarter, when Wood built a commanding 21-0 halftime lead by managing field position and the clock.

"This was one of our goals at the beginning of the year, to win the regular season," Rahill said. "But at the same time, the main goal is to win the playoff championship. So we're happy, but we're not ready to stop here. We're not too happy because we've got more important games ahead of us."

FOR THE RECORD - CLEARING THE RECORD, PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 3, 2009, FOLLOWS: Archbishop Wood football player Christian Albu was misidentified in Sunday's sports section.

Rahill was referring to the Catholic League playoffs, which begin next weekend. Wood (7-2) finished 4-0 in its division.

North Catholic fell to 4-4 overall, 3-1 in the division, and has only the playoffs and its final regular-season game - the traditional Thanksgiving face-off with city rival Frankford - before the Falcons' program hangs up the cleats for good.

North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty High Schools are closing at the end of the academic year.

Despite falling behind early, North Catholic had its opportunities as it rode a workhorse running back and a stingy second-half defense.

Falcons senior tailback Eugene Byrd rushed for 118 yards on 25 carries, and he got North Catholic into scoring range on two drives - one in the first quarter and one in the third - but both ended in turnovers.

Byrd's third-quarter fumble was the biggest.

North opened the second half with a seven-minute, 64-yard drive behind Byrd and quarterback Anthony Reid (67 yards passing, 10 yards rushing, one interception, one touchdown).

However, with North Catholic poised to score at the Wood 1-yard line, Byrd fumbled after being hit by Vikings junior linebacker Kevin Hannings, and the ball was recovered by senior defensive lineman Christian Abu (12 tackles).

"That was a huge play, and our defense has been playing great all year," Wood head coach Steve Devlin said.

"They're a very good team, they've got a great back. . . . You're not going to stop him, but we really didn't let him get going."

Reid eventually scored on a 2-yard run to cut Wood's lead to 21-7, and the Falcons held the Vikings to just 14 total yards in the second half. But turnovers killed North Catholic.

Later, a fumbled North punt recovered by Wood junior defensive back Sam McCain allowed Vikings freshman kicker Nick Visco to tack on a 29-yard field goal with 4 minutes, 51 seconds to play.

Midway through the second quarter, North Catholic junior defensive back Dave Sherman intercepted Rahill at the Falcons' 10-yard line, giving the Falcons the ball while trailing, 7-0.

But on the ensuing drive Devlin used two time-outs wisely between stops, forcing a Falcons punt into a gusting wind.

Vikings returner Scott Adkins alertly approached the short kick hard at North Catholic's 30-yard line and returned it to the 18 with 1:32 to play in the half. Mainly with Rahill rushing, Wood hit paydirt when the quarterback scored on a 2-yard rush with 39 seconds left in the half.

"We really take pride in that every week we practice with the clock and the amount of time that's left," Devlin said. "So it's good that you practice it every week and then you go out and execute."

On the ensuing kickoff, Visco sent a squib kick to a North Catholic up-man that was recovered by Wood senior Gavin Arcidiacono at the Falcons' 37-yard line with 36 seconds left.

Rahill hit senior wideout Kevin Shaw down the right sideline for a 34-yard completion, the quarterback's longest completion of the game.

Two plays later, Rahill scored his second rushing touchdown on a 3-yard keeper to the right pylon.

Wood had opened the scoring on a 12-play, 72-yard drive capped by a 14-yard touchdown screen pass from Rahill to running back Kevin Murt.

North Catholic was about to answer as Byrd, who gained 75 yards on 10 carries in the first half, rushed for 62 yards in five plays.

However, the Falcons went away from their star in the red zone, and Reid's pass into the wind was intercepted by McCain.

"We made mistakes," North Catholic coach Charlie Szydlik said. "We hurt ourselves, especially in the first half. When you play a good team like Wood, you can't make those types of mistakes."

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