Man on the run: Guckin finds backfield success

Story­book sea­son: Un­til this year, Guckin was primar­ily a line­back­er. Now, his 28 rush­ing TDs have Wood on the cusp of an­oth­er state title. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHO­TOS

— 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 em­or­

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