Great expectations for Archbishop Wood

Running back Desmon Peoples is one of six Division I-A-bound players at Archbishop Wood this year.
Running back Desmon Peoples is one of six Division I-A-bound players at Archbishop Wood this year. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 22, 2011

This year, flirting with state gold won't be enough.

Not for a talent-rich, high school football team that includes six Division I-A senior recruits. Not for a squad that returns eight starters on both sides of the ball. Not for a team that will open the season in front of a nationally televised audience.

"People expect a lot from us," Archbishop Wood two-way back Desmon Peoples said. "And they should. We can be something great this year. But we have to go out and do it. We can't just talk about it."

Like the region's other Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) members, the Vikings, fresh off Saturday's scrimmage against Father Judge, are entering the second week of the preseason.

So are teams across the river in South Jersey. Holy Spirit, Cherokee, and the rest will play for real beginning Sept. 9.

For PIAA schools, the 2011 campaign will open Sept. 2. Wood will kick things off Sept. 4, facing fellow power Pittsburgh Central Catholic at Gateway High in Monroeville. The highly anticipated contest will be televised by ESPN2.

"It's great for the kids," Vikings coach Steve Devlin said of the exposure. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They're real excited about it."

Devlin has compiled a 45-10 record (.818 winning percentage) in four seasons at the Warminster, Bucks County, school. Wood has bagged three consecutive Catholic League and District 12 championships. But it has fallen short of its ultimate goal: a state title at the Class AAA level.

In 2008, when the Catholic League joined the PIAA, the Vikings advanced to the state final in Hershey before bowing to District 7's Thomas Jefferson. The championship quest ended in the semifinals the last two seasons.

"When you get that far, it definitely puts the taste in your mouth," Devlin said. "We'd like to get it done this year. But you still have to play the games. We have a tough schedule."

In addition to the speedy Peoples, who doubles at cornerback and has committed to play at Rutgers, Wood returns two-way linemen Colin Thompson (Florida), Frank Taylor (Boston College), and Brandon Arcidiacono (Rutgers); and running back/linebacker/end Brandon Peoples (Temple), Desmon's cousin.

Another senior who will go to Division I-A is Nate Smith, a transfer from George Washington. The athletic wide receiver/free safety is considering South Carolina, West Virginia, and Temple, among others.

Also back are lefthanded quarterback Joey Monaghan, a 1,500-yard passer last season, and receiver/strong safety Kyle Adkins.

"They're going to be awesome," Danny Algeo, coach of Catholic League rival Cardinal O'Hara, said matter-of-factly.

The Vikings are no doubt loaded. Also present, Devlin said, are a team-first mentality and strong chemistry. "It's a very close group," he said. "They do a lot of things together off the field. That closeness helps."

All signs point to Wood meeting up again in the Eastern final with Allentown Central Catholic. Last year, with dual-threat QB Brendan Nosovitch accounting for 600 total yards (418 passing, 182 rushing) and seven touchdowns, the District 11 champs triumphed, 49-27.

The South Carolina-bound Nosovitch (3,111 yards passing, 1,647 rushing last season) returns to a dangerous spread offense, as do wideout Kevin Gulyas and running back Colin McDermott.

But that potential rematch is more than three months away. For now, Wood's focus is on Pittsburgh Central Catholic, the consensus No. 1 Class AAAA team in Pennsylvania.

Wood's 4-4 defense, guided by Mike Carey, right-hand man to Mike Pettine in Central Bucks West's dynasty days, will have to be at its best. Quarterback Perry Hills and wideout Anthony Nixon, both headed to Maryland, head an explosive unit that averaged 30 points last season.

"They say they're going to beat us by three touchdowns," Thompson said. "We're going to try to have something to say about that."


A Look at Archbishop Wood

THE TEAM

Last season: 13-1.

Coach: Steve Devlin (fifth year, 45-10).

Offense: Multiple/pro style.

Defense: 4-4.

Quick facts: The Vikings outscored foes, 511-213, and Cousins Desmon and Brandon Peoples rushed for a combined 2,460 yards and 36 TDs last season. . . . Besides senior wide receiver/free safety Nate Smith, who came over from George Washington, another key transfer is Benji Abercrombie. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound junior, formerly of Hatboro-Horsham, is a wide receiver and defensive end. . . . Wood will play home games at William Tennent. It previously used Wissahickon.

THE SCHEDULE

Date   Opponent   Time   

x-Sept. 4   Pittsburgh Cent. Cath.   2 p.m.   

Sept. 10   West Catholic   7 p.m.   

Sept. 17   at Conwell-Egan   7 p.m.   

Sept. 23   St. Joseph's Prep   7 p.m.   

Oct. 1   Glen Mills   7 p.m.   

Oct. 8   Mastery Charter   1 p.m.   

Oct. 14   at Archbishop Carroll   7:30 p.m.   

Oct. 23   Monsignor Bonner   1 p.m.   

Oct. 29   Cardinal O'Hara   1 p.m.   

x-at Gateway High in Monroeville (ESPN2).

- Rick O'Brien


Check for previews and follow all the action on www.philly.com/rally. And look for the special Inquirer football preview section in Pennsylvania on Sept. 2 and a week later in South Jersey.


Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019, robrien@phillynews.com, or @ozoneinq on Twitter.

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