LaSalle beats Nazareth in Air Raid
Bethlehem, Pa., Tim Wade’s 56 yard touchdown run on a daring fourth and one deep into the final stanza proved to be the difference in the LaSalle Explorers 41-33 thriller over the Nazareth Area Blue Eagles in a AAAA state playoff game at Frank Banko Field in Bethlehem. This game was loaded with big plays which gave each team’s defensive coordinator’s nightmares.
On this day Wade needed whatever blocking he could get because the Blue Eagles were running up big numbers themselves. Nazareth quarterback Dan Harding has a big time arm and his quick three step drop deliveries combined with coach Rob Melosky’s no huddle scheme kept LaSalle on their heels all afternoon.
The Explorers looked to take control early when quarterback Matt Magarity hit John Palermo for an 18 yard TD strike on their first offensive series. LaSalle then recovered a Nazareth fumble on their first play but Wade gave the ball right back to the Eagles when he fumbled on his next carry. Harding and company then went nine plays and he hit freshman sensation RB Jordan Gray with a 10 yard TD toss which tied the game at seven.
LaSalle scored touchdowns on their next two series and it appeared for a while that they were going to put on a clinic. Jared Herrmann’s one yard plunge followed by a Magarity pitch and catch to Wade for a 26 yard score put the Explores up by 14.
After another Magarity to Wade 47 yard touchdown pass (this one down the middle of the field to a wide open Wade), gave the Explorers a 35-21 lead they had a chance to put the game away on their next series but Magarity overthrew Casey Eidenshink, which would have been a certain 64 yard touchdown pass. At that point the Eagles made it a point to take advantage of the miscue and controlled the pace of the game for the next twelve minutes. They went on seven and 15 play drives, each producing touchdowns. Gray accounted for 50 of the yards on the longer drive and after Adam Bridgeforth’s six yard touchdown on a reverse the Eagles suddenly had momentum and were down 35-33.
The stage was then set for Wade’s huge run. Facing third and 17 from their own 28 on their next possession, Magarity got the Explorers close to a first down with a 16 yard toss to Mike Piscopo putting the ball on the Explorer 44. That’s when LaSalle coach Drew Gordon decided to roll the dice and put the ball in Wade’s hands to settle things. After Wade’s TD they failed to convert the extra point and held an eight point lead putting the ball in Harding’s hands one last time and a chance for a tie.
With four minutes and change left in the fourth quarter, Nazareth moved the ball from their own 29 to LaSalle’s 36. Harding’s last pass was then picked off by Jimmy Herron ending any chance for a Blue Eagle comeback.
Wade was modest when asked about the most important carry in his Explorer career: “We needed a yard and Connor (Kerrigan), Pat (Hoffman) and Dan (Wasylenko) gave me a cushion and then I saw daylight” said Wade on the play that earned LaSalle their third straight trip to the AAAA eastern final. “I like working with the guys up front. I rely on them all the time.”
Gordon appeared relieved when the game ended.” We felt coming in that we could put some points up but we needed a lot because of the effectiveness of Nazareth’s no huddle scheme. The last time we faced this type of offense was when we played Bergan (New Jersey powerhouse back in week 2). I’m glad we were able to get yards especially in the air. We needed everything we could get”.
The AAAA District 12 champs now move on to face District 1 champ North Penn next week for the right to represent the east in Hershey the following week. The Explorers defeated North Penn in a classic showcase game 44-27 back in week one. Gordon saw them dismantle Council Rock South the night before and came away impressed. “The North Penn team I saw last night is not the same team we played at the beginning of the year. We are going to have our hands full”. Nazareth (District 11 champs) ends their magical season at 12-2 and gave the folks in the Lehigh Valley a lot to remember with their high flying offense.
Notes: Wade had 18 carries for 104 yards and 5 catches for 131 yards. Gray had 133 yards on 21 totes. Sean Burke had a ton of tackles for LaSalle. Harding was 26 of 39 for 276 yards. Magarity was 15-21 for 280. Chris Rocco provided excellent coverage in the defensive backfield and almost made a sensation diving interception late in the game.
Scoring By Quarters
LS: John Palermo: 18 yard pass from Matt Magarity: PAT: Ryan Winslow: 7:53
NA: Jordan Gray: 10 yard pass from Dan Harding: PAT: Jack Portnoy: 4:51
LS: Jared Herrmann: 1 yard run: PAT: Ryan Winslow: 1:58
LS: Tim Wade: 26 yard pass from Matt Magarity: PAT: Ryan Winslow: 10:17
NA: Dan Harding: 1 yard run: PAT: Jack Portnoy: 7:30
NA: Dan Harding: 2 yard run : PAT: No good: 3:19
LS: Chris Kane: recovered fumble in end zone: PAT: Ryan Winslow: 1:10
LS: Tim Wade: 47 yard pass from matt Magarity: PAT: Ryan Winslow: 9:01
NA: Andrew Bridgeforth: 4 yard run: 2 Pt conversion no good: 1:45
NA: Adam Bridgeforth: 6 yard run: PAT: Jack Portnoy: 6:01
LS: Tim Wade: 56 yard run: PAT no good: 4:28
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