By MATT SMITH
WARMINSTER — Archbishop Wood quarterback Tom Garlick expected a fight against Cardinal O'Hara.
So, too, did the Lions.
The Vikings seem to squash their challengers like helpless bugs, making very good teams look grossly inferior. They are too good for O'Hara and too good for the rest of the Class AAA Philadelphia Catholic League Class and District 12 teams.
O'Hara did some nice things, at least early on with the ball, in Sunday afternoon's 41-0 loss to Archbishop Wood at William Tennent High School.
No, no ... really.
The Lions snapped off 17 plays in the first quarter, yet Wood held a 14-point advantage at the start of the second period. All the hard work O'Hara put in, trying to establish a run game, attempting to get playmakers Lamont Veal and Thadd Smith out into open space, was for naught. It didn't matter, because Wood had the upper hand seemingly from the get-go, whether the Lions realized or not.
"All week in practice, we knew these guys were going to give us a fight. They're a great team,' said Garlick, the Vikings' supremely talented quarterback, a uniquely polished interview for a sophomore. Garlick completed 9 of 13 pass for 173 yards. "We really stepped it up this week.'
What could the Lions have done to change their fate? They weren't terrible; they simply were overmatched by a team that is favorite to win another PIAA Class AAA title. Sure, the Lions have some plays they'd like to probably have back, but it wasn't going to make a difference. For instance, running back J.T. Blyden fumbled a handoff from Dashawn Darden on fourth and short in Wood territory on the opening drive of the game. The Lions recovered their fumble, but All-Delco Steve Weyler unleashed a wobbly punt that traveled only 16 yards. (Weyler redeemed himself with a 47-yard boot later in the half.) That gave Wood a short field to work with, and five plays later, Josh Messina rushed into the end zone from 7 yards out to make it a 7-0 game
"Obviously, we just couldn't contain them at all,' said guard/defensive end Nick Lucchetta. "They're fast ... and it's hard to see (watching film), turf versus grass, and all that different stuff. Bottom line is, we didn't execute. It doesn't matter how fast they are. If we can't do our jobs and contain them, they're going to hit the outside every time.'
The Vikings (5-0, 1-0) put on a show. They were a well-oiled machine on offense, utilizing their speedy halfbacks, Messina and Jarrett McClenton to remarkable efficiency, while executing flat and wheel routes, play-action fakes and a grab-bag of different looks running the ball.
For a high school program, it's a luxury to have a pass-catching tight-end with pure athleticism. Well, Wood has one of those, too. Christian Lohin had two catches for 100 yards, production rarely seen by a tight end at this level.
"They're really solid on both sides of the ball,' O'Hara coach Danny Algeo said. "But the thing that really gets overlooked, in my opinion, is they're special teams are phenomenal. It's like every game it's either a punt return or a kick return. If it's not for a touchdown, at least it's a big play. They set the tone, field position-wise, and their coverage ... well, they just smother you. They're solid across the board.'
Down 14-0, Weyler sent a booming punt to McClenton, who fielded the kick and raced 76 yards to paydirt. He was helped by some lethal, but clean, blocking.
"They're sharks. Once they see the blood in the water, it's go time for them,' Algeo said.
Defensively, the Lions (1-4, 0-1) were able to move the ball some, but ultimately the Vikings never caved in. Darden threw a fade route intended for Smith in the corner of the end zone in the fourth quarter, but McClenton's coverage was textbook. With his back turned the other way, the 5-8 McClenton leaped and wrestled the ball away for an interception, thereby denying the Lions their only real shot to score points.
Wood outgained O'Hara, 353-215.
"We can beat any team,' Lucchetta said, "we just have to realize that and start playing more responsibly.'