Wood remains undefeated at 13-0, while Strath Haven ends an excellent season, finishing 12-2. The Vikings will advance to the state semifinals against District 11 champion Allentown Central Catholic next Friday at a site and time to be determined.
The Vikings amassed 342 yards rushing and 393 yards of total offense against a very good Strath Haven defense. But each time Wood tailback Brandon Peoples got the ball, he seemed to have 3 to 4 yards of open terrain in front of him - thanks to the Arcidiaconos; 6-3, 275-pound senior guard Chris Knott; and junior tackles Michael Moffa (6-0, 195) and Frank Taylor (6-4, 275).
"Their offensive line was outstanding. It's why I have to give a lot of credit to their coaching staff and Wood's players," Strath Haven coach Kevin Clancy said. "But I'm also very, very proud of our kids and the way they played and battled back. We made some mistakes that cost us, but Wood also executed when they had to."
Wood never trailed, but it was competitive, with the Vikings holding a 17-14 lead with 6 minutes, 15 seconds left in the third quarter. That's when Strath Haven's Alex Hisey came up with a one-handed interception, giving the Panthers a chance to lead for the first time, returning the pick to the Wood 48.
But that's when the Vikings clamped down, stopping Strath Haven and getting the ball back at the outset of the fourth quarter. Wood reeled off a 12-play, 71-yard drive that took nearly 7 minutes off the clock and resulted in Peoples' second 1-yard touchdown - running behind the Brothers Arcidiacono.
Wood coach Steve Devlin likes to a have a little fun with the two, telling Brandon that Nick is better, and nudging Nick from time to time about how good older brother Brandon is.
"We really feed off each other, and we know what the other is going to do," said Brandon, the younger brother of Mark, an all-Catholic tackle at St. Joseph's Prep who is now at Penn State, and cousin of Neshaminy and Villanova-bound basketball player Ryan Arcidiacono. "We know what each of us is able to do, but with Nick, I can tell him things I can't tell anyone else, and that's because he is my brother."
It works the other way, too.
"Oh, yes, I'll let him know if he screws up," Nick said, with a grin. "But we really push each other. He makes me a better player and I think I make him better."
They both provided a special night for Peoples, who rushed for a career-best 235 yards.
"I run behind the best offensive line in the state, and I have no problems saying that," said Peoples, with his cousin, Desmon, watching from the sideline on crutches and his left ankle heavily bandaged. "But with Brandon and Nick, they push each other every day, and they're a big reason why we're here."
The performance of Strath Haven's Hisey can't be overlooked. He set up one touchdown, which brought the Panthers to within 17-14. He took a shuttle pass 87 yards, which set up Brent Collins' 5-yard TD run. His late third-quarter interception also placed Strath Haven in a position to win.
For Wood, junior quarterback Joe Monaghan showed a great command of the game, and when something needed to be done, on either side of the ball, he did it. He intercepted a pass at the end of the first half, and his 14-yard run midway through the fourth quarter set up Peoples' second TD. *
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