Class AAAA: North Penn VS LaSalle Preview
LaSalle Explorers: 12-1- Philadelphia Catholic League- District 12- Winner of Districts 12, 11, 4 and 2
North Penn Knights: 12-2- Suburban One Continental Conference- Winner of District 1
Location/Time: Charles Martin Stadium at Northeast High School- Saturday, December 10 at 12:00
At Stake: The eastern AAAA championship and a berth in the state title game at Hershey
Coaches: Drew Gordon LaSalle- State Champion 2009- Dick Beck- North Penn- State Champion 2003
Background: These two teams played in game one this year with LaSalle winning 44-27. LaSalle won the eastern AAAA championship against the Knights last year 38-35.
Offense: LaSalle averages 32 points per game with an offense where offensive coordinator Joe Wade uses multiple formations. Tim Wade is the main running threat for the Explorers with just under 1,500 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns. He is a true North-South runner much different than the way Jamal Rahman ran for the team last year. Two year starter Matt Magarity is the quarterback who has thrown for 24 touchdowns and 1,700 yards. Magarity’s main targets are Sean Coleman and Colin Buckley. In their win last week over Nazareth, Wade had touchdown receptions of 26 and 47 yards. Coleman was hurt in the game last week and will be a game time decision. The Explorers can adapt to whatever defensive scheme is thrown at them due to the amount of weapons at their disposal. North Penn averages over 38 points per game with coach Beck using the same overall scheme as LaSalle. Two year starter Corey Ernst is at the helm for the Knights. He has thrown for 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. Much like Magarity he is a two way threat with his arms and legs. He had a 51 yard run in their D1 championship game. The running backs are Kyle Mayfield (over 1,400 yards), Dan Gevirtz and James Fielder. Mayfield and Gevirtz are breakaway runners and Fielder pounds the ball. Mayfield has had shoulder and shin injuries during the District 1 playoffs and will be a game time decision. Gevirtz came in and ran for 208 yards in their win vs. Rustin after Mayfield was injured. He also had touchdowns receiving, running and a punt return in their win against Pennsbury. Ralph Reeves who plays tight end will normally line up in the Knights backfield when they have the ball inside the five yard line. He had four touchdowns in the Council Rock South game. Ernst uses TE’s Reeves, Shayne Watson and Gevirtz as his main targets.
Offensive Line: The offensive line of both teams is their strength. LaSalle had to reload this year up front after losing the majority of last year’s line to graduation. Connor Kerrigan, Pat Hoffman, and Dan Wasylenko head a group that is very well balanced as run and pass blockers. Wade, with his downfield running style blends in very well with this group. They also provided excellent pass protection for Magarity in their game with Nazareth. They lost Tom Spiteri to injury and replaced him with Luke Persichetti who played well. Mike Piscopo is a quality tight end who can block and is a good receiver. North Penn is also a solid group lead by 280 pound T.J. Smink, 320 pound John Garland, Derek Brandt, Josh Cook and George Shipp. This group is a sensational drive blocking unit and has provided Ernst with solid protection all season. TE’s Watson and Reeves are big time blockers as well and are in together on many short yardage situations.
Defense: North Penn has given up an average of 8 points per game since week three. In that span they have produced three shutouts and have given up over 20 points once. They have one of the strongest front seven groups in the state with Reeves, Watson, Shipp and Brandt leading the way. They are quick to adapt to different formations and have very good closing speed, especially in the line backing core. They are also a very physical group. In the District championship win over Council Rock they held the Golden Hawks solid triple option running attack to under 80 total yards. They are the one of the best overall (if not the best) individual tackling teams in this area in this writer’s opinion. LaSalle gives up an average of just under 17 points per game and are lead by senior linebacker Sean Burke who is a beast especially in their run defense. They do not use as many two way players as North Penn and make more substitutions especially in the defensive backfield which may work to their advantage. Sean Coleman is a quality safety and freshman Jimmy Herron has really picked up the slack with huge interceptions at the end of the PCL championship game against Roman and their win at Nazareth. The loss of leading tackler Spiteri three weeks ago hurt but Tyler Kern, Matt Maginnis and Mike Eife have stepped up and played with abandon. Wade has also played some linebacker and defensive end and made an impact. Chris Rocco played a solid game at DB against Nazareth with a lot of tackles and is a good cover corner. Many in the defensive backfield are non seniors. The LaSalle defense has had breakdowns in two games against teams that use a no huddle, quick tempo offense (Bergan Catholic and Nazareth).
Special Teams: Ryan Winslow handles the kick and punt duties for LaSalle. He has a big time leg and has pinned opponents back within their 20 yard line on many occasions. Brandon Mandes handles the same duties for North Penn and is a very accurate kicker. Returners Gevirtz for North Penn and Coleman for LaSalle are game breakers. Gevirtz’s return for TD vs Pennsbury was a back breaker. Coleman’s injury may hurt LaSalle’s return game if he is not able to go. Overall, LaSalle’s special teams are one of its strengths.
Observations: North Penn had the lead in their games against LaSalle and St. Joe’s Prep early this year and turnovers did them in. They had three crucial turnovers in a five minute span in their opener against LaSalle in the second half. They almost always have leads in halftimes of games. LaSalle has been well known to make halftime adjustments in games. Lately, some of their unheralded players have stepped forward and played well (especially non seniors). Coleman and Mayfield’s injuries are keys for both teams. Coleman means more to his team because he plays three ways (including special teams). North Penn has lost four games in the last two years, three of them to LaSalle. LaSalle’s 38-35 win in last year’s classic, a tipped interception of a screen pass off Ernst while the Knights were driving for the winning score made the difference in the Explorers victory.
- Will North Penn have second half breakdowns?
- Will Coleman’s injury affect LaSalle’s passing game?
- Will Beck attempt to use the no-huddle in this game since the Explorers have struggled against it?
- Will Wade be able to run downhill if LaSalle gets out to a second half lead
- Will Gevirtz be used more in the passing or running game?
Who will win and why?
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