Wood rolls over Academy Park

Posted: December 01, 2013

WINNING FOOTBALL teams come in a variety of flavors. Some teams are carried by a lone star whose talent drags everyone along for the ride.

But, there are also squads such as Archbishop Wood, which possesses depth that leaves opponents to play a futile game of Whac-A-Mole.

For proof, we have last night's 42-14 whitewashing of Academy Park in the quarterfinals of the PIAA playoffs.

Wood senior Jarrett McClenton entered the game with a team-leading 23 rushing touchdowns.

However, senior Luke Spahits, who came in with just five ground tallies, played leading man.

"Everyone from the starters to the second- and third-stringers has the mindset to come out on the field and do damage," said Spahits, a 5-10, 195-pounder.

The 18-year-old, who transferred from Hatboro-Horsham this season, rushed for only 43 yards, but three of his seven totes went for touchdowns.

He sought out Wood, in part, because his older brother, Michael, played baseball at the Warminster school.

"I've never been this far down the road in playoffs or anything like that so coming into this game I had my head on straight," the Horsham native said. "And every time I stepped on the field with an opportunity to do something I just kept my legs pumping and found the holes the offensive line made for me."

Next up for Wood (11-2) is a semifinal meeting with the unblemished Berwick Bulldogs (14-0) of District 2, which knocked out previously unbeaten Clearfield from District 9, 44-7, last night.

Since its last loss (22-7 at Archbishop Ryan), Wood has outscored opponents, 192-54, in the four-game span (all wins).

Last night, the defense was every bit as impressive as the offense.

Wood senior Joe Dutkiewicz, a 5-9, 180-pounder, provided a spark with a 45-yard return on the opening kick.

Sitting pretty at the Academy Park 41, Wood needed just four plays for glory, which was seized by a Luke Spahits rumble for 8 yards (Dan McDonald PAT).

Another four-play drive, this time for 65 yards, and it appeared the route was on. A 39-yard pass from Tom Garlick to Kendall Singleton propelled played catalyst and Spahits put a 13-yard cherry on top for a 14-0 lead after McDonald's point after.

However, turnovers put the coronation on ice, temporarily, at a chilly Charles Martin Memorial Field.

An interception by Academy Park's Eric Doe, a 6-0, 179-pound senior defensive back, nearly wrestled momentum away, but Jake Cooper (nine tackles) made the stop on a key fourth-and-2 to start the second quarter.

"Cooper is great, man," Spahits said. "I don't know that there is a better linebacker in Pennsylvania right now. It was definitely a momentum swing. That's all thanks to Coop."

Fond of four-play drives in the first, Wood doubled up for an eight-play, 50-yarder after Cooper's tackle. A Jarrett McClenton (12 carries, 145 yards) 5-yarder was the final garnishment.

Later, AP's Jerry Lanier snagged another Garlick pass, but again, Wood's defense held firm.

In the third, Wood's defense generously gave up a first-down (AP's first), but enough was enough so Wood forced a punt.

A 70-yard dart by McClenton set up Spahits, who took care of McClenton's light work from 1 yard out. That made the score 28-0 with 7:17 left in the third.

Later, a 4-yard ground-and-pound by Dutkiewicz lit up the exposed hands and faces of most crowd members by activiating the 35-point mercy rule with 8.8 seconds remaining in the third.

Lanier, Academy Park's top back, scored twice on runs of 2 and 35 yards late in the fourth against second-teamers.

Wood senior Chris Gary showed the relentless desperation of the team's senior class with the score out of reach in the fourth. After Doe, who is also a punter, took off upon snagging a high snap that disrupted his rhythm, Gary made the tackle at the 6 to set up Dutkiewicz on the next play.

"It's very important," Spahits said. "This is the last time we'll be playing high school football and we're just doing what every other team left wants to do. We want our last game to be a win."

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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