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Archbishop Wood’s killer pillars Tyrese Whitaker and Eric Gardner get their revenge on Neumann-Goretti in 28-6 victory

Written by: on Saturday, September 4th, 2021. Follow Joseph Santoliquito on Twitter.


Tyrese Whitaker and Eric “Scoop” Gardner had it on their minds before they even stepped on the field Saturday. The Archbishop Wood junior defensive ends, a pair that will be causing chaos for the next two years to everyone the Vikings face, remembered well the nightmare of a 44-0 pasting Neumann-Goretti put on them while freshmen at now-defunct Bishop McDevitt.

Both are larger now. Both are stronger now. Both are impactful now.

They turned into twin nightmares themselves on Saturday, making constant trouble for the Saints in Wood’s 28-6 victory in a game that was marred by penalties and disqualifications.

The Vikings’ defense held Neumann-Goretti to 117 yards of total offense, 115 coming through the air, with 43 of that coming on the Saints’ lone score, a 43-yard TD pass from Marqui Adams to Yazeed Haynes with :14 left in the first half.

Otherwise, it was all Wood—and it was all Whitaker and Gardner, who combined for six tackles for minus-36 yards in losses.

It was a quality victory for Wood over a quality team, but some of the same issues that plagued the Vikings in their 37-0 season-opening Neshaminy victory came back up again to the tune of six penalties for 62 yards.

Whitaker and Gardner helped erase those mistakes.

“When you look at it, Tyrese and ‘Scoop’ go both ways in the trenches, so for them to be able to do what they do, and continue their motor, they create havoc,” said Wood coach Matt Walp, who has Whitaker playing tackle and Gardner at guard on offense. “I couldn’t be prouder of those two. These are two successful men who came over here, and we ask them to go both ways, and they do it selflessly, that’s what a team is. We do whatever it takes and these guys do that.”

They also complement each other exceptionally well. If an opposing team chooses to double Whitaker, that means Gardner has matched up problem against a tackle. If they choose to try and cancel Gardner with the added attention, Whitaker can penetrate from the other end.

Either way, they’re killer pillars.

“It starts at practice and working on our moves and working on our strength,” Whitaker said. “We want to make our job easier for everyone. This proves to the city that we’re a team to beat. We came back to show we have grown from losing 44-0. You remember games like that.”

Gardner also remembered the 44-0 game.

“It’s why this was more personal for me because when our school (McDevitt) got shut down, I wanted to play Neumann again and it’s funny to us because they did us in,” Gardner said. “It was get-back season. We’ll see them again.”

Wood got out to a 14-0 lead and it looked like the Vikings would stomp all over Neumann-Goretti at the outset. It didn’t help the Saints to have an interception called back on a roughing-the-quarterback penalty, which resulted in Wood’s second score. Saints’ defensive holding call extended another drive, which resulted in Woods’ third score.

For the game, the Saints were flagged 14 times for 110 yards.

“We’ll get better and we’ll fight through this,” Saints’ coach Albie Crosby said. “This is a good thing this time of year to find a way through adverse situations.”

Trailing 21-6 in the third quarter, Neumann-Goretti had an opportunity to climb back into the game with two Red Zone opportunities and came away with no points.

There were some unheralded performances that deserve mention, like Neumann-Goretti sophomore defensive back Khari Reid, whose third-quarter interception placed the Saints at the Wood 40. It was Reid’s first-quarter pick that was negated by a late-hit penalty on the quarterback. Wood junior defensive back Emmanuel Sia, who had a third-quarter interception, is electric every time he touches the ball.

Scoring Summary

Archbishop Wood (2-0) 14 7 0 7-28

Neumann-Goretti (1-1) 0 6 0 0-6

1st Quarter

AW – Markus Dixon 24 pass from Trey Holsman (Leo Ricci kick), 7:54

AW – James Bermudez 8 run (Ricci kick), 3:03

2nd Quarter

AW – Ricardo Delgado 9 run (Ricci kick), 8:52

NG – Yazeed Haynes 43 pass from Marqui Adams (pass failed), :14

4th Quarter

AW – Delgado 4 run (Ricci kick), 6:14

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been covering high school football since 1992 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter @JSantoliquito. Follow on Twitter @EPAFootball.

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