— Mayfair native Andrew Guckin’s transformation to star running back has Archbishop Wood cheering.
Last December, Andrew Guckin figured he had reached football heaven.
His team, the Archbishop Wood Vikings, was walloping every opponent in sight en route to a state championship, and Guckin had put the capper on the title with a long interception return for a touchdown. A linebacker by trade, Guckin, a Mayfair native who now lives in Holland, Bucks County, wasn’t used to seeing the end zone, so he cherished that moment in the event it would never happen again.
If only he knew what was to come one year later.
Now a senior captain for Wood, Guckin is still entrenched at middle linebacker when the Vikings line up on defense; however, there’s been one big modification in that Guckin is also now the team’s starting running back after being primarily a defensive stalwart his entire high school career. To say he’s taken his new opportunity and ran with it would be a big understatement, in addition to a cheesy pun.
In Friday night’s AAA state football quarterfinals at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School, Guckin carried the ball 14 times for 134 yards, which in this season could be considered a down game for him. He scored four of his team’s five touchdowns before halftime as the Vikings prevailed in a 35-7 win over Interboro High School of Delaware County. Wood is now two wins away from back-to-back state championships, with the next test coming Friday night against Allentown Central Catholic in Bethlehem, Pa.
Through 11 games, Guckin has racked up an astounding 1,676 yards rushing on just 169 carries, which equates to almost 10 yards per carry (in a broader perspective, Guckin is essentially picking up a first down every time he touches the football). Add 28 rushing touchdowns, a pair of 300-plus yard performances (including his record-breaking, 345-yard, six-touchdown performance against Bonner-Prendie on Oct. 26), an additional 281-yard game and you’ve pretty much got Barry Sanders … if Barry Sanders also played linebacker. Guckin also has thrown a touchdown pass this season and moonlights as Wood’s punter on the rare occasion that they need to kick the ball away.
And to think, a season for the ages came close to never happening at all.
“I came down with appendicitis a week-and-a-half before school started, and I had to have surgery,” Guckin said. “It was a few days before our first game, and when I was in the hospital I had so many thoughts in my head — ‘Was I done for the year?’ ‘How long would I be out?’ ‘Would I miss any time in school?’”
Ah, yes … school. In addition to being involved in almost every play during a 48-minute football game, Guckin also carries a 4.0 GPA in the classroom. Not only is his GPA perfect, but so is his attendance, as he has never missed a day of school.
“That was something I wanted to keep. I think it’s pretty cool … not many people get to do that,” he said.
Guckin missed Wood’s first two games while recovering from surgery in late August, but his perfect attendance still stands. In his first game against Frankford, he carried 14 times for 110 yards and two scores and hasn’t looked back since, heaping praise onto the efforts of his coaches and offensive line for helping him find the end zone so many times.
“I figured I’d have a key role on offense since we lost some guys (to graduation), but I wasn’t sure where,” said Guckin, who saw reps at fullback and even quarterback in preseason camp. “It’s been sort of a pleasant surprise.”
Not only for him, but for his entire family as well. Guckin estimates he has a contingent of at least 10 to 20 faithful family members who come watch all of his games, home or away. This includes his parents, a grandmother, cousins and aunts and uncles, including his uncle Vince, who starred at Father Judge in the late 1970s and is a member of the school’s football Hall of Fame. Andrew’s father, Mark, played at Judge as a freshman, and cousin Josh Carfagno (class of 2008) was an All-Catholic honorable mention at defensive line for the Crusaders.
Not only does the tight-knit, fun-loving Guckin/Carfagno clan attend every game, but they also tailgate in the parking lot as a means of accentuating family bonding time.
“We’re into December and they’re still out there tailgating,” Guckin said with a laugh. “But I love to walk through the parking lot before the game and see them all out there. The support is awesome, and it always gives me the extra motivation to give them a good performance.”
Said Mark Guckin: “I’ve already got five text messages from people wanting to know the plan for Friday night’s game. It’s pretty exciting … my mother gets involved with it, and we talk about Andrew, as well as our old football stories. If anything, it’s an extra opportunity for us all to get together. It’s been a blessing.”
So did the proud papa expect a season like this from his son, who was named the AAA Catholic League MVP?
“Well, I never thought for a second he’d be rushing for 300 yards (in a game),” he said with a chuckle. “I coached him growing up through eighth grade, so I knew he could shine offensively if he got a chance. I figured he’d be successful, but he has by far exceeded my expectations. It’s kind of amazing, to be honest with you.”
As far as the rest of the season goes, Andrew is just enjoying the unexpected journey. He needs 324 yards and two touchdowns to reach 2,000 and 30 for the season, but you won’t find him studying his stat sheet on the sideline anytime soon. Guckin won’t make a college decision until after the season ends, but various Ivy and Patriot League schools are interested. (Pushed to name a front-runner, Guckin mentioned Penn.) Football will certainly be in his future, even if Guckin is suddenly unsure what side of the ball he’ll be playing on.
“I love playing both sides,” he said. “Not many players get to be as involved as I am in every play of the game. Which do I like better? I always thought defense, but now that I’ve experienced both, I don’t know how to pick. I’d play either.”
So forget whether or not Andrew Guckin has found football heaven; he’s just happy to have found the end zone, now on each side of the football. ••
Sports Editor Ed Morrone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or email@example.com