LaSalle vs. St. Joe’s Prep Playoff Preview (Round Two)
At Stake: District 12, Philadelphia Catholic AAAA, Championship
Venue/Time: Colonial Stadium, Plymouth-Whitemarsh, Pa., Saturday, November 11, 1:00 PM
Coaches: Drew Gordon for LaSalle in his seventh year and Gabe Infante, St. Joe’s in his third year.
Weather Forecast: 60 and mild
Last Meeting: St Joe’s defeated LaSalle 24-16 in week seven. LaSalle committed seven turnovers (3 interceptions, 4 lost fumbles) and had problems tackling. They did hold onto a 7-3 lead at the half and two fourth quarter touchdowns by the Prep was the difference. St. Joe’s themselves committed five turnovers but forced the action in the second half.
Offense: The Prep average 28 points per game working in a quick tempo and often no huddle offense. They use multiple spread formations in addition to Pro I and 2 back sets. They have three backs that have run for over 400 yards (Vince Moffit, Olamide Zaccheaus and QB Chris Martin) but possibly the best back (John Reid) is not one of those three. All RB’s often line up very deep in the backfield and many of the handoffs are draw like plays to give the offensive line time to set up their blocks. Zaccheaus has sensational balance and has the ability to break tackles and make others miss. He normally gets the bulk of his yardage in the second half of games. Moffit runs more north south and compliments Zaccheaus. Reid had a few carries in the Archbishop Ryan playoff game (maybe a sign of what’s to come) and the quarterback (Martin) has a running back’s temperment .
Martin is a very aggressive runner and is a true leader in the huddle. He runs more QB draws especially in the fourth quarter when they are ahead. He’s had some ill advised throws that were intercepted or almost intercepted in the last few weeks. This is a big concern.
The Hawks main receiving threats are junior Jawan McAllister, freshman Cameron Chambers and sophomore Reid. All three are game breakers when given an opportunity. Chambers (6’2, 195) is a serious red zone threat with a few fade patterns for touchdowns. Moffit has 16 catches out of the backfield and has great hands. Tight end Dan Sherry hauled in two touchdown passes in last week’s playoff win (his first two catches of the season) and should be a threat this week after missing a few games with a concussion.
The Explorers average 31 points a game and have not had a game since week one where they haven’t scored at least 28 points except their week seven game vs. the Prep. Their main running backs in the last three weeks are Sophomore Jimmy Herron (mostly in the wildcat) and Mike Eife. Eife was not projected at year’s start to have a major impact in the running game but injuries have put him there and he has not disappointed. Herron is used as a receiver, back and quarterback and accounted for a touchdown running, passing and receiving in their playoff win against Roman Catholic. Both Eife and Herron have had big plays in the last few weeks that have opened up games. Jared Herrmann was the original starting running back but bruised ribs a few weeks back have limited his mobility. He is still a weapon as a running back and receiver out of the backfield. Sophomore Jordan Meachum did not play last week with a hip injury.
Quarterback Chris Kane is limited throwing and running because of a high ankle sprain suffered in week eight. Herron ran almost a third of the plays at quarterback from the gun and should be as much of a factor at that position this week. He ran for 144 yards out of the wildcat last week in their win vs. Roman.
LaSalle’s offensive strength is their receiving corps and Kane has a number of weapons he can depend on. Sean Coleman is a three year starter and saves many of his best performances for the big games. He caught the winning touchdown two years ago in the Eastern final against North Penn. He has eight touchdowns and over 40 catches. Herron is replica of Coleman and has 12 touchdowns and 400 yards receiving. They are arguably the most lethal bookends at the position the team has ever had. Tight end Jon Nagi is a capable receiver and great pass blocker when the scheme is max protect. Herrmann and Eife have over 25 catches between them and have scored on big receiving plays.
Offensive Line: Both teams have superb offensive lines. LaSalle has more depth with Gordon rotating Tom Spiteri, Pat Hoffman, Dave Losier, Bill Frusco, Luke Persichetti, Conor Resch and Dave Geppert. This group is one of the better pass blocking groups and every combination used has been effective. Geppert did not play (injury) last week. The Prep has nowhere near the depth in their line but they are a better drive blocking group led by Fran Grey, Dave Tracz, Chris Koiler, sophomore Jon Runyan and Matt McIntyre. Paul Johnson has played when needed as has done more than an adequate job when called upon.
Defense: LaSalle gives up an average of 12 point a game under coordinator John Steinmetz revolving door of substitutions both on the line and the defensive backfield. Last year’s leading tackler, Spiteri is healthy and now going both ways patrolling the defensive line with Andrew Carlone, Pat Hoffman, Bill Frusco, Eife and Naji up front. Their back seven are a very athletic, playmaking group including Dad Poquie, Zaire Franklin, Coleman, Herron and Mike Koller whom all plays well together as the season has gone along. Franklin and Eife have interceptions for long TD’s. Gordon’s major concern in their prior encounter with the Prep was poor tackling and turnovers. The team did a much better job in both departments in last week’s win.
The Prep has the best defense seen in the east thus far and everything revolves around the push the line gets in order to give their back seven the ability to play downhill. Paul Johnson has played better than anyone in the catholic league this year and he is a leader in their scheme with Jim Mooney, Shane Williams and freshman Joe DuMond rounding out the front four. Their back seven all benefit from the line push with Todd Jones (the leading tackler), Tim Rafter (who must lead the PCL in fumble recoveries), one of the best press corners in Reid (5 ints.) and Tom Johnson who has three picks and numerous break ups. This defense plays their best ball as a group and not individually and tackle the ball carrier in numbers. They have given up 73 points all year to some of the more productive offenses in the country so far.
Special Teams: LaSalle has one of the best kickers in SEPA in University of Pitt commit Ryan Winslow. Many of his kickoffs are touchbacks giving the opponents the ball on their 20 yard line. He can handle 40 yard attempts and can punt for over 40 yards when needed. Coleman handles the returns and has a punt return for a touchdown.
The Prep has Kyle Battin handling the kicking duties. Although not as big a leg as Winslow, Battin is very accurate with seven FG’s. The Prep has successfully used pooch kickoffs with great success causing three turnovers in games vs. Wood and Roman Catholic. John Reid had a game changing 99 yard return kick return in their win against Archbishop Wood.
Intangibles: Both teams will certainly work overtime watching film. The preparation that Infante and his entire group make that evident during game situations where they are well aware of what the other team is doing at all times. Their audible system is a thing of beauty. The X factor for LaSalle is Coach Gordon’s son Brett who is the offensive coordinator and has devised game plans in other Explorer title wins that were executed to perfection including a couple of major point productions over some of Gil Brooks best squads. St. Joe’s thrives under pressure. They play more like they want the pressure. Injuries are on both sides but LaSalle has more in their core players. The Prep feed off Johnson more than LaSalle leans on one player.
Coaching Playoff Experience: Infante has drastically improved the Hawks over the last three years. Since 2010 he is 1-2 in the playoffs with his first coming in last week’s win vs. Ryan. Last year he guided the Hawks to second place in the conference but lost to a Roman team in the first round that they trounced during the regular season. In comparison, for LaSalle’s coordinators Brett Gordon and Steinmetz, this is not their first rodeo. They’ve been there before. Actually five straight PCL title games, two state title games and one state championship.
Things to look out for:
- Reid to get carries in the tailback position
- Brett Gordon devising at least two trick plays
- Zaccheaus breaking a long one in the fourth quarter
- Hoffman and Spiteri playing every minute on offense and defense
- Herrmann getting a number of passes out of the backfield
- If Kane has time and can push off his ankle, expect a few long passes downfield
- Will the Explores trips formations (which create scat protection) benefit them or the Prep?
- The Prep may use the pooch kickoff a number of times
- The power of both school’s pep band’s
Prediction: The Prep did not play well in the second half of their win vs. Archbishop Ryan and LaSalle looked very impressive both offensively and defensively in the second half against Roman Catholic. However title games are games of matchups and LaSalle just does not match up well with St. Joe’s. The Prep play great against great teams and LaSalle certainly is great. Their entire team plays better in the second half of games and this will be no different. The Hawks will wear the Explorers down in the second half with a couple of long TD’s. Herron will not get the yards out of the wildcat as he did in the Roman game. Their intensity and preparation will earn the Prep a two touchdown win at PW. Prep 28 LaSalle 14
Ted Silary has contributed to this story
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