Explorers close, but fall short
St. Joseph’s Prep rallies past La Salle in PCL 6A final
PHILADELPHIA >> A win over St. Joseph’s Prep was so close for the La Salle football team. But on a rainy Friday night, a fourth-quarter lead slipped away from the Explorers.
“We had them,” La Salle junior linebacker Dillon Trainer said. “We had them. That’s going to burn for a while.”
With their defense keeping the high-scoring Hawks in check, the Explorers held a 13-10 lead after three quarters of the Philadelphia Catholic League Class 6A final. But in the fourth, Prep sophomore quarterback Kyle McCord threw a pair of touchdown passes as the Hawks scored the final 13 points to rally past La Salle 2313 at Northeast High School’s Charles Martin Memorial Stadium.
“The fact that we were right there and the fact it was really in our grasps and it just kind of slipped away at the end that just, that’s the part that hurts that most,” Trainer said. “That’s proves that we can stick with these guys.”
La Salle senior quarterback Sean Daley ran for and threw for a touchdown as the Explorers closed the gap on the Hawks after falling 49-12 in their regularseason meeting Sept. 28. But despite holding a Prep offense averaging 46.3 points per game to a season low in scoring, the Hawks still earned their sixth straight win over La Salle.
“Each week we worked on something to get to eliminate the (37)-point deficit,” Explorers coach John Steinmetz said. “One of the big things was special teams. They killed us last time. Our special teams were really good. Our offense did some good things and some new things, defensively we did some things.
We changed some stuff up from what we did before. They’ve just got so many weapons it’s just hard.”
McCord finished with 249 yards and three touchdowns on 13-of-27 passing as St. Joseph’s Prep (90) advances to face either Northeast or Central in the District 12-6A final Nov. 17 at Northeast.
La Salle finishes its season 5-6 – the program’s first losing year since 2017. But the Explorers fought back from a 0-3 start and with a bitter end at the hand of their rivals, the program’s returning players have plenty of offseason motivation.
“We’re definitely sad right now,” junior defensive lineman Ryan Savage said. “This, compared to the last result was definitely a lot better. We played our butts off. It just shows our improvement as a team as the year went on. But we’re coming next year and we’re going to remember this loss. And you’ll know it.
Daly was 9-fo-20 passing for 148 yards, one touchdowns and two interceptions. Luke Hardy had three catches for 70 yards – 36 coming on his TD catch in the second quarter.
St. Joe’s Prep Marvin Harrison Jr. had three receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown while Johnny Freeman made four catches for 68 yards and a score.
“Nationally, I think people view the PCL as the Prep’s league and we just
want to prove that that’s not the case,” Trainer said. “Team with the heart at the end of the day pulls this one out – always. So no matter who you’re playing, no matter how big or small the deficit is, no matter what if you’re the bigger dog you’re going to come out with a win.”
Holding a 13-10 lead early in the fourth, La Salle tried a fake punt run on 4th and 7 from its own 31 but came up three yards short, giving Prep the ball at the 35.
“We saw it a long time. We thought we had it and then we came in motion, usually that kid stays on the edge and he came in the middle,” said Steinmetz the fake punt. “He kind of clogged it up a little.”
The Hawks needed just one play to take the lead for good, McCord connecting with Anthony Rightley down the middle for a 35yard touchdown with 8:58 left in the fourth.
Prep forced an Explorers 3-and-out the next series and Marques Mason’s 19-yard punt return put the Hawks on the La Salle 21 at 6:41.
Prep had two touchdowns called back due to penalties, but finally reached the end zone with 4:03 to go when McCord hit Freeman for a two-yard TD strike. A blocked extra point put the lead at 23-13.
“It’s the third year in a row, man,” said Steinmetz of La Salle falling to Prep in the PCL-6A final. “Two or three, right at halftime,” We’ve just got to find a way to close a deal out.”
On its final drive, La Salle moved the ball to the Hawks 45 but turned the ball over after an incompletion
on fourth down with 1:36 left.
St. Joseph’s Prep took a 7-0 lead on a 76-yard drive bookended by Harrison Jr. catches. The sophomore took a McCord pass 41 yards on the series’ first play down to the La Salle 25. Six plays later, Harrison Jr. hauled in a five-yard touchdown at 6:33 in the second quarter.
The Explorers pulled level with 1:05 left in the half as Daly dropped in a 36-yard touchdown pass to Hardy on 4th-and-9.
The Hawks, however, took back the lead just before the break. McCord hit Mason for 19 yards then found Freeman for 37 to put Prep at the La Salle 8. The Hawks moved down to the three but had to settle for an Antonio Chadha 20yard field goal at 15 seconds.
“That was very big,” said Savage of the Explorer defense’s stand. “It was a big momentum change when they got down there but we gritted down, we knew we had to make a stop and we did and we capitalized.”
La Salle went ahead 1310 on its second possession after halftime. On a double pass, Kahlil Diarrah hit Manny Quiles for 22 yards. Sam Brown’s juggling 23yard reception on the sideline put the Explorers at the Prep 2. Two plays later, Daly plowed in from a yard out at 5:14 in the third. A blocked extra point kept the margin at three.
On their next drive, the Explorers had a 2nd-and-1 at the Hawks 32 but were stuffed for no gain on the play then proceeded to lose yards the next two downs to turn the ball over to Prep.
La Salle quarterback Sean Daly runs with the ball earlier this season.