Building his own legacy

Arch­bish­op Wood line­back­er An­drew Guckin

All of his life, An­drew Guckin heard the stor­ies.

The high school foot­ball tales of glory re­ver­ber­ated throughout his fam­ily’s house­hold to the point where they be­came second nature to Guckin.

His uncle, Vince, played line­back­er at Fath­er Judge (Class of 1979) and is a mem­ber of the school’s foot­ball Hall of Fame.

His fath­er Mark and cous­in Josh Carfagno (Class of 2008) also played foot­ball for the Cru­saders, and it seemed to be only a mat­ter of time un­til Guckin fol­lowed in their foot­steps.

That is, un­til he wrote his own story. And it wasn’t for the Cru­saders.

Guckin, a ju­ni­or who plays middle line­back­er for the Arch­bish­op Wood High School team, just fin­ished be­ing a part of a team that will one-up any Judge stor­ies his fath­er, uncle and cous­in can share around the fam­ily din­ner table dur­ing the hol­i­days.

The Vik­ings are the newly crowned 2011 PI­AA Class AAA state cham­pi­ons; they won the title game, 52-0, on Dec. 16 against Har­ris­burg-area Bish­op McDe­vitt High School.

It wasn’t so much that Wood had just throttled Phil­adelphia Eagles run­ning back Le­Sean Mc­Coy’s alma ma­ter in the title game (Mc­Coy was on the side­line to wit­ness the Vik­ing tri­umph in per­son), or that Guckin’s 75-yard in­ter­cep­tion re­turn for a touch­down in the third quarter had helped seal his team’s vic­tory by stretch­ing the score to 38-0.

No, the cap­per on this truly spe­cial Arch­bish­op Wood sea­son came down to something much sim­pler: brag­ging rights.

“Foot­ball plays such a big role in our fam­ily, so I def­in­itely heard all of the stor­ies grow­ing up,” Guckin said in the days fol­low­ing Wood’s tri­umph over Bish­op McDe­vitt. “My dad and uncle and cous­in would all take turns telling me about their glory days at Judge, and my uncle es­pe­cially would have the best ones. But after this sea­son, he fi­nally told me that I had de­throned him in terms of foot­ball brag­ging rights.

“But even more than just brag­ging rights, foot­ball rep­res­ents so much more to our fam­ily,” Guckin con­tin­ued. “I grew up in it, so I don’t know it any oth­er way. From the minute I star­ted hear­ing the stor­ies, I wanted to be able to make my own high school foot­ball memor­ies.”

Guckin proudly calls his clan a “foot­ball fam­ily.” He was born in May­fair but moved to Southamp­ton after kinder­garten, and he still lives there today. Al­though he lives in the sub­urbs, Guckin al­ways sus­pec­ted he’d be wear­ing Cru­saders col­ors when it came time to enter high school. After all, it would only be ap­pro­pri­ate con­sid­er­ing the fam­ily’s lin­eage.

“My dad wanted me to go there,” Guckin said, re­fer­ring to Fath­er Judge. “And for a while, to be hon­est with you, that’s where I thought I’d end up. Wood and Judge both have great foot­ball pro­grams, so it really just came down to the fact that I knew Wood would have an ex­cel­lent team by the time I got there. Plus, I got to write my own chapter by go­ing there in­stead of Judge.”

For his part, Wood coach Steve Devlin, a Somer­ton res­id­ent, knew from the start that Guckin could play. He first saw his middle line­back­er play in an eighth-grade CYO all-star game, and after in­tro­du­cing him­self, he told Guckin that he had what it took to play for the Vik­ings. After watch­ing Guckin play for the Wood fresh­man team, his in­tu­ition was quickly con­firmed.

“He’s as tough as they come,” Devlin said. “He’s very in­stinct­ive, and it was clear to me right away that he could tackle. If he gets his arms on you, then you’re go­ing down. He’s our coach out there on de­fense.”

Devlin also called Guckin the “quar­ter­back of his de­fense,” and it cer­tainly took a lot of hard work for his star de­fens­ive play­er to get to that point. The 6-foot, 195-pound Guckin star­ted as a two-way play­er while a sopho­more, also see­ing some time at full­back. After that sea­son ended with a state tour­na­ment loss to Al­lentown Cent­ral Cath­ol­ic, Guckin fully com­mit­ted him­self to el­ev­at­ing his game the fol­low­ing year. For his ju­ni­or year, he was start­ing again on de­fense, but Devlin soon moved him to middle line­back­er. Guckin ex­celled at the po­s­i­tion.

After Wood opened the sea­son with a 20-17 loss to Pitt­s­burgh Cent­ral Cath­ol­ic, Guckin led a de­fens­ive unit that didn’t al­low a first-half touch­down the rest of the sea­son. In fact, Wood did not lose again, reel­ing off 14 straight vic­tor­ies, in­clud­ing a 70-14 re­venge win over Al­lentown in the semi­finals be­fore ul­ti­mately knock­ing off Bish­op McDe­vitt. For op­pon­ents, those 14 con­sec­ut­ive Wood wins wer­en’t even close.

“In the first few weeks, I moved over to middle line­back­er and I called the plays on de­fense,” Guckin said. “Over the course of the sea­son, the de­fens­ive unit just really kind of came to­geth­er as a fam­ily. We knew, as a really good team, that the ma­jor­ity of the cred­it would fo­cus on the of­fense, but we didn’t care. We just nev­er let up out there, and we had to be great to achieve our goal of win­ning the state cham­pi­on­ship. I would say that we achieved what we set out to achieve.”

Now that the sea­son is over and Guckin has had time to re­flect on what Wood ac­com­plished, he is beam­ing more and more with pride. In a fam­ily with such deep foot­ball roots, a 14-1 sea­son in which his team was far and away the best in the state is something Guckin’s dad or uncle or cous­in can’t say they got to ex­per­i­ence.

Not that this is a com­pet­i­tion, mind you, but Guckin is still happy it seems that way, be­cause he knows this sea­son helped strengthen the already strong bond of a foot­ball fam­ily.

“Grow­ing up, I would hear stor­ies about play­ing for Judge and how get­ting to play in the city title game was the best ex­per­i­ence ever,” Guckin said. “Now it’s spe­cial that it’s my turn to share my own memor­ies with my fam­ily. They all come out and see me play, even my Mom-Mom, who hasn’t missed a single one of my games. It’s really spe­cial for me to be able to take my turn car­ry­ing the fam­ily foot­ball torch and to be able to share it with all of them.”

Guckin already is hard at work pre­par­ing for his seni­or foot­ball cam­paign. He’s an equally con­scien­tious per­former in the classroom, with a GPA around 4.0 and the hope that both aca­dem­ics and sports will get him in­to a Pat­ri­ot or Ivy League col­lege.

ldquo;I haven’t thought about that (the fu­ture) too much yet, be­cause I want to en­joy this while it lasts,” Guckin said. “The one thing I know from my fam­ily is that this foot­ball stuff, it all ends even­tu­ally. But the best thing is, we can all bond about this for years to come. We were already a close-knit group, but this has just brought us to­geth­er even more.” ••

Re­port­er Ed Mor­rone can be reached at ed­ward.mor­ 

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