The Vikings of ancient lore were a hearty group of adventures who approached every conquest with ferocity and intensity. The same could be said for the Archbishop Wood soccer team. This group of Vikings is equally voracious in their pursuit of a PIAA Class 3A soccer championship.
Joe Trodden, who along with Kody Taylor, Connor Ford and Bob Hennessey, serves as captain of the Wood team, sums up their style of play. “That’s how we play each and every game. We come out with intensity and aggressiveness. We try to bring it to the other team.”
The formula seems to work. The Vikings started the year with back-to-back victories over Council Rock South (3-0) and Council Rock North (2-0). As impressive as these wins were, Joe felt the team’s real turning point came midway through the season. “Our game against Lasalle was key. Lasalle was a two time PCL (Philadelphia Catholic League) champion. We won 4-0 and that’s when we realized this team can be something special.”
The Vikings would go on to win both the conference and district 12 titles. In capturing the Philadelphia Catholic League title, they claimed victories over Archbishop Carrol (3-0), Lasalle (1-0) and Roman Catholic in a classic double overtime championship tilt settled by penalty kicks. They went on to defeat Franklin Towne 5-0 to seize the District 12 championship.
Now the Vikings want to expand their conquests as they take on the best in the PIAA Class 3A state playoffs. Tom says they will not change their approach. “We play the same as if it was a regular season game. We have to come prepared, stay focused, and play our game.”
In the opening round Wood beat Lower Dauphin 1-0 to set up a quarterfinal match-up with Holy Ghost Prep. Though only a few miles apart, Joe claims the two schools were not familiar with each other. “We didn’t know much about them. We knew they had one very good forward, number eleven (Nkosi Graham). They were going to try and find his feet and play most of their offense through him. We knew we had to shut him down.”
The Vikings succeeded in throttling the Holy Ghost star. “We had to play aggressive and back each other up. We knew one man couldn’t do it so when he got the ball we’d help out and play team defense. It’s what it came down to. Our back line did a very good job as well as our midfield. Our goalie (Connor Ford) made some opportunistic saves as well.”
On the offensive side of the ledger, Kody Taylor provided all the scoring thrust the Vikings would need. The senior scored in the eighth and twenty-sixth minute to give Wood a commanding 2-0 lead. The Firebirds managed to cut the margin to 2-1 when Matt McGinley took a deflected shot by Ethan Ruppersberger and booted it by Connor Ford. Taylor would respond completing his hat trick by finding the back of the Firebird net with twenty-three minutes left in the game.
The 3-1 victory brought an avalanche of fans swarming their conquering heroes. “It was a great feeling. Our fans are the best and we play for them.”
The Vikings also play for each other, a fact enhanced by the 12 seniors on the roster. Joe values this team chemistry. “This year we love each other. We play together and play for each other. That helps us the most. The seniors have played with each other for four years. We’re best friends and we know how each other plays and we can play to each other’s strengths. You really want to play for the guys out there.”
With the conquest of Holy Ghost the seniors got to extend their season at least one more game. In the semi-finals they took on Strath Haven, the team that beat the Firebirds 3-2 in the PIAA District One finals. Joe knew they were facing a worthy opponent. “We know they’re a great team. Any team that makes the state semi-finals has got to be doing something right. They’ve beaten Holy Ghost and played them tough two times this year. We know we’re in for a battle and we’re ready.”
The Vikings were prepped for action and ready extend their season goals one more game. “Our goal at the beginning of the season was to play together as a unit. Our main goal was to win the PCL which we accomplished. Our goal now is to win states and become the best Wood team ever.”
Unfortunately for Wood faithful, Strath Haven proved to be a big hurdle. The Vikings attacked with vigor scoring the first two goals of the game on kicks by Ryan Morgan and Joe Baranowski. Not to be denied, Strath Haven rallied and tallied three times in the second half to win the semifinal game 3-2.
Determining ‘the best team ever’ is a difficult task at best. One thing is certain, the 2018 Vikings will always be remembered as a fierce and talented group of warriors.