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Archbishop Wood Holds off LaSalle’s Late Rally

Written by: on Sunday, October 11th, 2015. Follow Armand Vanore on Twitter.

by Gary Johnson, LaSalle photographer

James Gillespie hauls in a pass over the outstretched arms of Charles Headen

Plymouth Meeting, Pa., Dan Ranine’s 20 yard field goal with no time remaining propelled 2014 AAA state titlist Archbishop Wood to a 27-24 thriller over the LaSalle Explorers in a classic non conference showcase affair yesterday at Colonial stadium.

Both teams schemes are in stark contrast to what many Philadelphia area high school football enthusiasts are used to seeing. Gone are offensive line coach Mike Carey and Wood’s massive run blocking pound to the ground running attack. This offense now has more balance that produced 300 receiving yards (one a Raheem Blackshear 44 yard completion). For LaSalle, gone are Drew and Brett Gordon’s run through the pass scheme with guys like Sean Coleman or Jimmy Herron. This Explorer bunch need to depend on their own balance of the run and pass with less heralded skill players.

In a first half that was eerily similar to last year’s match up of both teams, Wood dominated the first half  opening up a 21-o lead by virtue of Anthony Russo’s three touchdown passes as well as a strong defense which held the Explorers to only 42 total offensive yards.

As was the case in LaSalle’s come from behind 35-31 thriller in last year’s showdown it appeared that they were destined to take this game over in the second half. After a Matt Savage field goal giving the Explorers their first points, LaSalle signal caller Chris Ferguson dialed up a 21 yard strike to Isaiah Jones then followed shortly thereafter with a two yard run for a touchdown which trimmed the Viking lead to 11. Blackshear then fumbled on Wood’s next possession which led to a Nick Rinella’s circus catch for a touchdown on the game’s next play.

After LaSalle tied the game ( Syaire Madden’s 12 yard run) at the three minute mark of the last quarter, Russo then piloted a crisp seven play drive completing passes of 31 and 13 yards which set up Ranine’s game winning field goal.

The Vikings (PCL) now up their slate to 6-0 and will host Cardinal O’Hara next week. The Explorers (PCL, AAAA) whom arguably have one of the most difficult schedules in the state fall to 3-2 and host the returning AAAA state champ St. Joe Prep. That makes two state champions in two consecutive weeks. Tall task.

Tidbits: Madden toted 110 yards on 11 carries in the second half. Russo completed 10 of 16 passes with three drops in the first half. His unofficial final totals were 15 of 23 for 250 yards and 3 TD’s.  He had two balls dropped that were touchdowns. He has terrific pocket presence and has enough arm strength to throw off his back foot effectively when needed. He appears to be one of the most complete pro style quarterbacks Philly has seen in years. He has verbally committed to Rutgers. Rinella did everything but carry the water bucket for the Explorers. On LaSalle’s first TD he broke two tackles for an 18 yard gain, then made his highlight reel catch in the endzone. He also had several tackles and a big hit on Raheem Blackshear stalling a Viking drive. He should be a nice addition for many college programs.  The entire Viking squad came out on the field surrounding Ranine after his winning kick. Junior receiver Mark Webb will garner his share of college offers with his size (6’3) and ball skills. He left the game in the 3rd quarter with a leg injury. The Vikings committed 13 penalties for 125 yards. Wood coach Steve Devlin worked the last drive to perfection mixing in two passes and five runs on their last 68 yard drive leaving 2 seconds on the clock prior to the winning kick.

Scoring by Quarter

1st Quarter

AR- Webb-16 pass from Russo- (PAT-Zanine)- 10:09

AR- Thompson- 3 pass from Russo- (PAT- Zanine)- :49

2nd Quarter

AR- Diodato-11 pass from Russo- (PAT- Zanine)- 3:45

3rd Quarter

LS- Savage- 30 FG- 8:11

LS- Ferguson- 2 run- (PAT- Savage)- 2:31

LS- Rinella- 25 pass from Ferguson- (PAT- Savage)- 2:15

4th Quarter

AR- Ranine- 21 FG- 7:01

LS- Madden- 12 run- (PAT- Savage)- 2:57

AW- Ranine- 25 FG- :00

As always, Ted Silary has contributed to this report. A special thanks to LaSalle photographer Gary Johnson for the story’s photo.

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