Archbishop Wood Wins Thrilling 5A Title Game. @WoodFootball @CheltenhamSD
Written by: Phil Myers on Saturday, December 7th, 2019
— Pa Football News (@PaFootballNews) December 7, 2019
As in any sport, it’s not always how you start, it’s how you finish. The Vikings of Archbishop Wood took that to heart by saving the best for last, scoring a touchdown with 4 seconds remaining to defeat Cheltenham 19-15 Friday night at Hersheypark Stadium.
The game started out as a battle of defenses for much of the first half. Neither offense could generate a scoring drive until Robert Meyer of Archbishop Wood booted a 42-yard field goal with a little over 3 minutes gone in the second quarter.
It was during that 54-yard drive that Wood began to find its legs. Those legs were in the person of Kaelin Costello who ran for a game high 282 yards on 38 carries. He also scored a touchdown eleven seconds into the third quarter on a 28-yard jaunt.
The first half ended on Meyer’s 22-yard field goal as time expired, giving Wood a 6-0 lead going into halftime. The Vikings, using a steady dose of the hard-running Costello, drove from their fourteen to the Panther five and quarterback Max Keller spiked the ball with one second left to set up Costello’s second three-pointer of the half.
The third quarter began with Viking Thomas Pomponi falling on a Cheltenham fumble of the kickoff at the Panther 28. Costello scored the next play to double the Wood lead to 12-0, but the two-point conversion failed.
The Panthers misplayed the following kickoff and Andrew Minners was jolly on the spot to pounce on the loose ball. Cheltenham’s defense buckled down and made the stop to stall that Wood drive. Meyer then missed a 28-yard field goal into the wind and from a sharp angle.
That was a momentum changer for the Panthers. They took the pigskin 80 yards in a little over two minutes, scoring their first points on an Adonis Hunter to TJ Harris 20-yard strike, that Harris made a fantastic grab on in the end zone. Andrew Moreland’s PAT cut the deficit for Cheltenham to 12-7.
Early in the 4th quarter, with the Vikings driving and in Panther territory, Jamir Barnes intercepted a Wood pass and returned it 21 yards to the Panther 40. A penalty set the ball back to the 30 before Cheltenham embarked on a 70-yard march that took 13 plays. During that drive they converted a fourth and one. On third down from the Viking three Hunter found Barnes, who then beat a defender to the pylon for the touchdown. After Moreland’s PAT and with exactly four minutes left, Cheltenham had their first lead 15-12.
The stage was now set for the last second Wood heroics. The ‘drive’ started at the 35 after a nice kick return. Costello ran seven straight plays gaining thirty-seven yards to the Panther 28, but losing a yard on his seventh carry. Cardel Pigford took care of the next couple totes gaining ten yards to the 18 setting up a fourth and one situation. Costello broke loose for fifteen to the Cheltenham three and Wood called its final timeout with 8 seconds on the clock.
Nixing the game tying field goal, Coach Kyle Adkins decided to go for the win. Keller hit Pigford perfectly on the quick cross and sent Wood into an elated celebration and Cheltenham into stunned numbness. When asked his feeling after the winning grab, Pigford simply said, “I caught it!” A short kickoff with a minimum return ended the historic battle between two evenly matched teams.
Coach Adkins’ comments after the game were, “We thought about it (the field goal), but with eight seconds left to go, we thought we’d get a match-up and our quarterback is smart enough to know if it wasn’t there to throw it out of bounds. We had no timeouts, so we felt like we had no choice but to pass and if it’s incomplete, we kick the field go and go to overtime.”
Costello said, “This is the best feeling of my life. Being a state champ is what we’ve been working for and we knew we could do it ever since LaSalle.” As one person said to the 5’9” 165 lb. Viking running back, “You’re a heck of a little runner, dude.”
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