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December 14, 2012HERSHEY, Pa. (AP) - Minutes after fending off Archbishop Wood's fourth-quarter charge, a group of Erie Cathedral Prep players gathered in a circle on the sideline and swayed back and forth while yelling "We undefeated!"
Don't forget about that state title, too.
Quarterback Damion Terry threw for two touchdowns and ran for another to help build a 17-point cushion in the first half before the unbeaten Ramblers made two defensive stands inside their own 25 for a 24-14 win Friday night to take the Class AAA crown.
"Please never forget this moment, never until you die forget this moment," Prep coach Mike Mischler said after the game while his players posed with their new trophy. "Bottle this up and cherish it. Win or lose today, I wanted them to do that."
Prep won its first title in a dozen years, though the Vikings kept fans on edge until Felix Manus-Schell's interception in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter snuffed out a last-ditch attempt to rebound from a 17-point halftime deficit. Manus-Schell also had a 60-yard touchdown catch for Prep (15-0).
The defending champion Vikings (12-3) headed home to the Philadelphia suburbs having to settle for second this year. Andrew Guckin's 5-yard scoring run got Wood within 10 points late in the third quarter before Prep's fourth-quarter defensive stands.
The Ramblers stopped Wood on fourth-and-1 from the 24 earlier in the fourth before Manus-Schell's pick in the end zone.
"We battled, I'm proud of my guys. We fought in the second half just ran out of time," Wood coach Steve Devlin said.
Wood controlled the clock in the second half behind the running of Guckin (30 carries for 178 yards) and Josh Messina (17 carries for 124 yards). Messina had a 32-yard TD run on the game's opening drive before Prep scored 24 unanswered points.
Wood ended up dominating the time of possession thanks to its rushing attack, holding the ball for more than 32 minutes.
But the Vikings couldn't come up with enough big plays to keep up Terry. He finished 13-of-24 passing for 317 yards, a PIAA Class AAA championship game record, and had 12 carries for 55 yards.
He credited the defense, though, for finishing off the Vikings after Prep's offense stalled in the second.
"They came up with fourth-and-short stops. That just meant everything," Terry said. "It's nice for the offense to know that if we don't score on one drive, then our defense can stop them."
The savvy Terry deftly ran his own offense in the first half, softening up the Vikings D with short throws before connecting with for long scores with Troy Woodard (59 yards) and Manus-Schell.
The latter touchdown came off a short hitch pattern that Manus-Schell turned into a TD after speeding through the secondary, then making a cut at the 10 to weave untouched in between two defenders to cross the goal line for a 24-7 lead that would stand at the half.
"They're undefeated for a reason," Devlin said. "The first half just got away from us a little bit."
The interception that brought the biggest smile to Manus-Schell's face after the game. He said was beaten by receiver Chris Rahill before catching up to him for the pick.
That speed sure helped him out again there.
"They were driving on us for a second. We held our ground, and just did what the coaches told us to do," Manus-Schell said.
Archbishop Wood 7 0 7 0-14