Defense leads La Salle in rout
Explorers top Archbishop Ryan, win 1,000th game in program history
“One of the predictions on one of the websites, we didn’t like it too much sowe came out pretty hot.” – Austin Lemke, La Salle senior linebacker
Winning the coin toss was the best thing that could have happened for La Salle on Saturday night.
The Explorers pushed their choice to the second half, leaving Archbishop Ryan to face a very motivated defense with a lot of pent-up aggression ready to let off. When La Salle got the kick to start the second half, or more technically, the second try of the second half kick, it finished off what the defense started in the first half.
La Salle simply dominated as it rolled over the Raiders 45-7 at Plymouth Whitemarsh, the 1,000th game in program history. It was another bignight for the offense, but only because it didn’t want the defense to get all the bragging rights for theweek.
“We always try to out-play the defense,” Explorers senior running back/kick returner Octavious Carter said. “They were making all these plays and the offense said we had to do something too. We couldn’t let it be an all-defensive game.”
Carter effectively iced the game when he took the second half kick back for a 75-yard return touchdown, the first kick return TD of his career.
Hewas in position to do it because the defense was just relentless all game. A week after routing Archbishop Carroll, a couple of the Explorers defensive players found a prediction that had them only topping Ryan in a one-score game. Needless to say, it lit a bit of a fire that simmered all week in practice.
“We knew they had a pretty good quarterback, he’s pretty versatile and he was their biggest threat, so we wanted to focus on him and I think we all came together,” La Salle senior linebacker Austin Lemke said. “One of the predictions on one of the websites, we didn’t like it too much sowe came out pretty hot.”
Ryan started its first drive on its own 26-yard line. On the first play, senior linebacker Liam Trainer sacked Ryan quarterback Jahill Sanders for an eightyard loss. Lemeke stuck him for a two-yard loss on a third down keeper and by the time Ryan sent out its punt unit, the offense had gone backwards eight yards.
La Salle held the Raiders to 139 total yards in the game and had 13 plays resulting in negative yardage.
“This week in practice helped us play to this potential,” Trainer said. “We went hard every snap in practice and I really feel like it paid off tonight.”
La Salle’s defense has a number of things going for it. Firstly, it’s an extremely experienced group with plenty of guys back from last season, including Trainer, Lemke, Chris Maloney and Garrett Zobel among numerous others.
Second, there’s an edge to the way they play. Carter said the first team offense goes up against the firstteam defense in practice and what Lemke and Trainer bring is different than anything he’s seen so far this season. Lemke said he wants the defense to strike fear in an opponent from the first series, to make them know the Explorers are going to be there all night.
“It’s a good feeling when you come out and hush everyone up a little bit, yeah we have great weapons on offense and put up big numbers but we’re as good defensively,” Lemke said. “With this front seven, it’s easy to make plays when your defensive line is flying around.”
Aside from the narrow margin, the linebackers said the other thing that irked them about that prediction was it had Ryan scoring more points than the defense has yet to allow in a single game this season.
“It struck our defense, we talked about it and made sure it didn’t get to us too much, but itwas in the back of our heads,” Lemke said.
“The senior leadership has taken us this far, we have great senior leadership coming off last year,” Trainer said. “Our team leads in the right way; it’s more of a push-up and pull-up kind of leadership as opposed to last year where we didn’t have great leadership.”
Lemke ( baseball) and Trainer ( lacrosse) are among a number of Explorers who play spring sports, but even as they were going through those seasons, they were still preparing for the football season. Lemke said players like Maloney and Daniel Kuznetsov spearheaded the charge.
Saturday, Ryan had little success moving the ball and all the while, the La Salle offense was going up and down the field, scoring on all five of its first half drives.
To start the second half, the Ryan kickoff went out of bounds, so Carter thought he and the offense would just take the ball on the 35 and keep it going. Then the coaches opted to have a redo on the kick.
“I was surprised because it went out,” Carter said. “The coaches said to catch it in the air, but it bounced and I saw it roll.
“I thought itmight go out so I picked it up in my left hand, I was cutting and all I hear was my friends say ‘follow me,’ so I started to follow them and I thought ‘I can’t get caught now’ and I just kept going.”
Carter took the kick back 75 yards, weaving his way from the right sideline over to the left and outrunning everyone the last 40 or so yards. As he returned to the bench, a teammate simply stated “Octavious, you’re fast.”
La Salle hosts Father Judge next week and with 30 seniors on the roster, they know the crucial part of their season is fast-approaching.
“We don’t start the first day of camp and say we’re going to be good this season, it starts right after the last season,” Trainer said. “We don’t have an all-star player, everyone shares their own piece of this team and it’s really a good quality to have.”
“From the first day, we said we’re not letting that (stuff) ever happen again,” Lemke said. “We looked like the worst teamI’ve ever seen since I’ve been watch- ing La Salle game. We came out firing in the weight room and once the summer came around, we said we’re going to go as far as the seniors take us.”