Anyone else might have been a nervous, twitchy mess. Cardel Pigford wasn’t.
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Archbishop Wood junior had had his problems a month ago holding on to the ball. Now the Vikings were asking him to hold on to their season.
Pigford slid toward the goalpost, and Wood quarterback Max Keller found him through a maze of defenders with :04 left, punctuating an improbable season with the exclamation point of a 19-15 victory over District 1 champion Cheltenham for the PIAA 5A state championship Friday night at Hersheypark Stadium.
The state title is Wood’s sixth (2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019) overall, after the Vikings were knocked out in the state semifinal last year. The defeat ended an historic season for Cheltenham (14-2). The Panthers were making their first appearance in the state finals, and they made it a memorable by being part of a classic.
With :08 left, and the ball sitting at Cheltenham’s 3-yard line, the season for both teams rested on one play.
“The guys had faith in me, they called my name and I had to come through,” said Pigford, who lost to fumbles in the first half of the District 12 championship over Martin Luther King. “We had our doubters this year. I’m happy they believed in me to make this play. I don’t think that I’ll ever forget it.”
The bulk of Wood’s offense came through fellow junior tailback Kaelin Costello. A month ago, Costello was used sporadically. During the state playoff run, that changed. He dashed, and cut and tore through Cheltenham for a career-best 282 yards on 38 carries, averaging 7.4 yards each time he touched the ball.
“I think it’s a matter of believing in your guys, and we did,” said Kyle Adkins, who could be a state record-holder in being the youngest coach at the age of 25 to ever win a PIAA state championship. “It was a process of taking things game-by-game.
By Matt Smith
The final play in Friday night’s District 1 Class 5A final was a curious call that Academy Park coach Jason Vosheski would like to have back.
Why wasn’t the ball in the hands of his outstanding senior quarterback, Barry Brown?
Brown had thrown an 18-yard scoring strike to Malik Johnson to pull the Knights within one point of top-seeded Cheltenham with mere seconds to play. Brown was unstoppable all night, both on the ground (225 yards, 25 carries) and through the air (7-for-12, 94 yards).
Brown accounted for a touchdown scamper and two-point conversion on the Knights’ previous score, which gave the visitors a brief one-point lead with 1:48 to go.
Cheltenham stormed back, leaving Academy Park with 22 seconds (but glorious field possession due to three Cheltenham penalties) to score the winner. AP took over at the Panthers’ 18-yard line. Brown needed only one play to find Johnson alone in the end zone.
No. 4 Kennett (10-1) v. No. 5 Strath Haven (9-2)
Why the Blue Demons can win: Kennett hasn’t given up a touchdown in 15 quarters of football. That’s a pretty good recipe for success. On their four-game win streak, the Blue Demons have forced 12 turnovers, while giving up only four. Strath Haven is as run-centered a team as you will find, and that plays into the strength of Kennett, who gives up just 108.4 rush yards per game. Having QB Sam Forte and running back Garrett Cox gives Kennett diversity on offense, which could be the difference between two hard-nosed squads.
Why the Panthers can win: Their styles are a little different, but Kennett and Strath Haven win by doing the same things — run the ball and defend. The Panthers didn’t blow the doors off of 5-5 Upper Merion last week, but they were also in no danger of losing with their defensive prowess. Against the best two defenses the Blue Demons faced this year, West Chester East and West Chester Rustin, they scored 26 total points. One would suspect Strath Haven can keep it a low-scoring battle and let longtime coach Kevin Clancey work his magic late.
By Havenfootball.net Staff
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