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PIAA “AAAA” State Championship – LaSalle College HS Preview

Written by: on Thursday, December 17th, 2009. Follow Josh Funk on Twitter.


The Philadelphia Catholic League seems to have this PIAA playoff thing down pat. They’ve only been involved with the PIAA playoff system since last year, but the PCL’s record against PIAA playoff opponents is fairly impressive.

Archbishop Wood, a “AAA” school, is 3-2. West Catholic, which ripped through the “AA” bracket last year and made it back to the Eastern Finals this year, is 5-2. And LaSalle College, making its first-ever foray into the world of the PIAA playoffs, is 2-0. Adding up those records, that equals a 10-4 mark, a winning percentage of .714.

Saturday night in the “AAAA” state championship game, the Explorers will look to push the PCL’s PIAA playoff win total to 11 and bring home the league’s first state title. LaSalle College (13-1) will face State College Area (12-2) Saturday night in Hersheypark Stadium, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. The Explorers will try to do what neither West Catholic or Archbishop Wood could do last year – win the title game.

Wood’s order, to be fair, was a tall one. The Vikings had the task of trying to slow down a powerful Thomas Jefferson juggernaut whose only ’08 loss was to Ohio Senate League powerhouse Cleveland Glenville. West Catholic had a 14-0 lead at halftime, but couldn’t hold off Wilmington, falling in double overtime, 35-34. Two PCL shots at a PIAA title, two PCL losses, two silver footballs.

So now, the inaugural title onus falls on LaSalle College. Not that the Explorers mind, though. They’d relish it if you doubt them.

Easton was figured to knock off the Explorers after posting an impressive three wins in eight days. But that never materialized, though the 17-14 decision said more about LaSalle’s ability to make a comeback than it did about Easton wearing down from four games in a span of three weeks.

Ridley was coming off of an emotional 19-10 victory over nationally-ranked North Penn and favored to win, but the Explorers could have cared less, pummeling the three-time Eastern finalist Green Raiders 35-7. LaSalle defeated a Ridley program that had won 611 games and boasted an overall record of 92-23 (.800) since 2001.

In two weeks, LaSalle knocked off two programs that have won a combined 1,358 games, eight district championships (Easton – 6, Ridley – 2) and had appeared in a combined seven Eastern Finals.

LaSalle, which began playing football in 1920, has built a nice little tradition of its own. The Explorers have won 447 games as a member of the PCL, but did not compete in the league from 1921 to 1922 and 1928 to 1933. The blue and gold waited 35 years to win its first PCL championship, then won three more, totaling four titles from 1955 to 1960. Then, after a 29-year hiatus, LaSalle returned to the title scene in 1989, and added additional titles in 1995, 1996, 1998, 2006, 2008, and 2009.

The PCL titles reach 11 in number, and the Explorers have 10 seasons of 10+ wins to their credit. Three undefeated and untied seasons add to the LaSalle resume, coming in 1955, 1957, and 1998. The ’98 team owns the school record for wins in a season, 14, which this ’09 edition can tie with a win Saturday night.

LaSalle has reached this point with a pretty balanced offense. Two running backs compliment 2,200-yard passer Drew Loughery, and both are underclassmen. Junior Jamal Abdur-Rahman and sophomore Tim Wade have combined for over 1,700 rushing yards. Abdur-Rahman has run for 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns; Wade has 671 yards and six scores.

Both Wade and Rahman are also steady receivers in the Explorer aerial assault. The duo has combined for 44 catches, 606 yards, and five touchdowns. Other LaSalle receivers worth noting include Connor Hoffman (35, 582, 7), Sam Feleccia (27, 412, 5), Steve Jones (21, 330, 5) and Kevin Forster (20, 269, 1).

Loughery, meanwhile, has thrown for more than 2,000 yards for the second consecutive season. He’s completed 155-of-254 passes for 2,292 yards and 23 touchdowns. For his career, Loughery has thrown for 5,246 yards and 50 touchdowns. As a program, LaSalle has produced three 5,000-yard passers – John Harrison and Brett Gordon are the other two.

Defensively, LaSalle has only held six opponents to seven points or less and has two shutouts. The Explorers’ defense has allowed double-digit points in five of the last six weeks, but the defensive domination in the Ridley win may have raised a few eyebrows.

Is LaSalle going to be able to lay the claim of being the PCL’s first PIAA champion? Will LaSalle continue its roll through the PIAA playoffs and remain with an unblemished record?

Find out Saturday night.

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39 Responses to “PIAA “AAAA” State Championship – LaSalle College HS Preview”

  1. Stoltz13 says:

    Look at how West Catholic dismantled the AA field this year if you need proof of why including schools that can draw from a greater talent pool but are classed by attendance have an unfair advantage. Columbia Montour Vo-Tech (public) must compete in AAA because they draw from schools that size and the same rule should apply to Catholic schools who recruit from various public districts. Anyone who loves fair competition should be offended by the current nonsensical system. Catholic schools who draw from a large area should realize their victories are like a 200lb wrestler beating a lightweight…

  2. scottdeck says:

    pretty good placekicker from southern california…….

  3. Chris says:

    So let me get this straight… people think that the BIG kids (200+ lb. backs) were recruited to PCL schools because of their size? How many 6’4″, 200lb 8th graders do you know? I’ve yet to meet one! But the guys who hit the weight room can bulk up and become those big guys by their junior and senior years.
    The “recruiting” that happens at PCL schools is what others have made it out to be: coaches approaching kids and suggesting that they look into the PCL schools. However, from a fairness perspective, how is that more unfair to border-enforced schools than the border-enforced schools with FEEDER SCHOOLS would be to PCL schools? North Penn has thirteen elementary schools which feed into three middle schools which feed more than 500 boys EVERY YEAR into North Penn High School. All that means is that the lower schools’ coaches get to teach their players the NP system before they ever put on a Knights uniform.

    Furthermore, if PCL schools have all of this recruited talent which make them essentially “all star teams,” could someone please explain why La Salle doesn’t have a single Division I recruit? The closest is Drew Loughery, who has received interest from Syracuse, a school that hasn’t been to a Bowl game in years. Meanwhile Gateway out in Western PA has several D1 recruits every year, and they choke every year.

    The fact is that the Philadelphia Catholic League is a VERY competitive league which has advantages and disadvantages against the rest of the state, but to say that it has an unfair advantage is frankly ignorant.

  4. scottdeck says:

    Actually classifications are based on boy’s enrollment numbers- for calendar year 2010- 9th thru 11th grade- North Penn is biggest school in district with 1538 boys followed by Upper Darby- 1498, Pennsbury- 1395, Neshaminy- 1295- CB West has 732 and Ridley 850……

  5. scottdeck says:

    Thanks for your honesty coach12- Ridley’s potential starting QB next year was recruited by the Prep- actually played freshman football for St Joe…..The brother of Ridley’s wideout/db was also recruited by O’Hara and will hopefully transfer back to Ridley for his Junior year- We are not that naive……….

  6. szam33 says:

    Throughout these posts PCL guys have admitted to recruiting, they just don’t like that word. They’ve said “kids from different districts, areas, states”, “coaches talk to kids because of their athletic ability”. O’Hara has been “talking” to Ridley’s Dixon-Dugan trying to get him to go there. I heard they’re even offering him the #1RB spot next year, which is his 1st choice of position and he lost at Ridley this year after an injury. Others have talked about an “even Playing field” with larger schools like CB West, North Penn and Neshaminy. I’d bet my lefty that there are a few quality players living in those school districts playing PCL football. And what about smaller schools like Ridley with 2000 kids?? Thats an even playing field?? If DELCO kids could select a school because they wanted to play winning football, and Ridley bused them in, EVERYONE would go to Ridley. Hell, just let Ridley pull from it’s 2 closest neighbors, Interboro and Strath Haven….State Championship every year!!! It was mentioned that people moved in to the CB West district. Well ok. They weren’t pulling the top players living in different school districts. I was once approached by a Malvern coach after an ice hockey game and asked if I’d ever consider going to Malvern. I was also given a few details on what I would need to do to make it happen. At that time Malvern was the best hockey school in the state. Was I offered a scholarship? No. But it was clear to me that I was approached because the coach felt that I could help the program WIN. Not because I was a good guy…. That’s recruiting!

  7. P ward says:

    Guys: Take this from someone who has coached at 2 PCL schools and who won several championships, we do not recruit. period. I coached 180 lb lineman for years and I always laughed when we were accused of recruiting–I’d say that I did a pretty poor job of recruiting to not have 1 kid over 200lbs. Guess what–we won. Now LaSalle has a big line for once and all the Ridley guys are assuming they were recruited–big kid Szostak’s dad and brother played at LaSalle as well as QB’s dad and about 30 of the 60 on the Varsity roster. They don’t have the money to fund athletic scholarships anyway–they are self funded–16,000/ yr.

  8. Coach12 says:

    PCL school’s do indeed recruit, and not just in football. I coach CYO Basketball and after one of my recent games a coach from one of the PCL schools approached me about one of my players and asked me what school he currently attended and why he was not playing for the team there, and then proceeded to ask me to talk to the kid and his parents about letting him talk to them.

  9. Dave says:

    As a former PCL football player I can say that I was given no money. Alls that I did was show up every day year round, including the offseason. I hit the weight room hard packed on a lot of muscle weight, as did most of my teammates, including everyone who saw meaningful playing time. It’s not the money that brings the PCL wins, it’s the dedication to the sport from the players. Maybe your teams just need a little bit more dedication to their sports in the offseason.

  10. Parent says:

    Both basketball players at PW were at LaSalle CJ & Julian, both very good kids but they didnt meet the academic requirements so they were dismissed. Both r nationally ranked players so if Lasalle was only trying to win championships they would still be enrolled. That should put this recruit garbage to bed.

  11. Buddy says:

    RYAN : you’re redundant. It’s all been said in previous comments.

  12. scottdeck says:

    Just do not think it is right to have student athletes residing outside the state of Pennsylvania and competing for PA State Title- Buddy, let’s see if you are just as happy when North Penn splits and you play with 800-900 boys available to play football instead of 1800…..

  13. Ryan says:

    the “PCL recruits” thing is getting old. people do not appreciate the simple fact that students want to go to la salle. no coach needs to get students to attend la salle. they already do for the atmosphere and the academic program.
    the piaa let us in and i dont think they will kick us out already so quit whining. the complaining will go nowhere.

  14. BFlem27 says:

    In Philadelphia, a kid can go to any public school they want to as long as there address say philadelphia. So for kids that go and play for Washington as long as they from the city they go there. They city has had open enrollment at any non-neighborhood HS since the Mid 90’s.

    As for a Private Prep school having players outside the state has been going on a long time prior to the PCL joing PIAA. Look at Catheral Prep out of Erie. When they beat CB West in that great Quad championship game, most of there players were from Ohio not PA. If you a private Prep school you have no borders to worry about. But it is up to that parent and child if they want to goto that school. Like someone said before, it all goes in cycles. It’s only been 2 years in PIAA for PCL. Public schools will bounce back as they always do if they have good coaching. When you are winning, those kids that have a choice of public school or a catholic school will really think twice about it. Prime example is North Penn and Lansdale Catholic. Kids are not going anymore because they have been down and they are going to North Penn. Its all cycles in HS football.

  15. PCLfan says:

    St Joe’s has some players from NJ LaSalle does not. There are many kids from many public schools that are not from the state. The State swimming record broken by a Prep kid last year was an exchange student from Germany. There has been many situations like that at Public schools. By the way the Prep kid who holds the state record is from NJ, just thought I would throw that in. On this same topic, look at the PW basketball team that made the state 4A semis last year. They had 3 kids who transfered from LaSalle the year before. All of them, plus one from the city, just happen to move into the PW school district at the same time.

  16. d1coach says:

    Buddy, you are correct about CB West not really being a large school anymore compared to NP, Neshaminy etc. but they absolutely could not qualify for AAA. Schools are broken up into classifications solely on the number of boys in their schools. Tradition has absolutely nothing to do with it. P.S. GO LASALLE!!!

  17. scottdeck says:

    Are students from LaSalle and St Joe Prep rosters really from outside the state of Pennsylvania? If so, how can a team play for the Pennsylvania State Championship with players from California and New Jersey representing their school?? Something appears wrong with that picture………..

  18. Parent says:

    My son is one of the line man everyone is talking about< his freshman year he was 5’10 165lbs a D-dack in CYO football. They told him he wasnt fast enough for DB so he made the effort to get big for his new position. These kids r very dedicated & want to succeed. GO LASALLE

  19. Buddy says:

    We’re not complaining, or at least I’m not. I was just pointing out that there is a small distiction between some of the PCL schools & public schools as far as boundaries. I don’t think it makes a much of a difference especially re. schools like NP, Neshaminy etc. I repeat, glad you guys sre here.
    By-the-way, CB West is not really a large school anymore ( since CB South). They might be able to qualify as AAA, but play Quad A because of their tradition.

  20. Pete says:

    If students in the city went to there neighborhood schools, the same things would apply either way. he only difference would be that instead of Prep and LaSalle being the powerhouse teams, it would be the Judge and Ryan teams, because they are the areas that lose students to those schools. And how many kids that Washington had on their team the last two seasons actually live in their area. Very few, mos of Washington’s players actually should have gone to frannkford according to their addresses. It happens in the Catholic and the Public league, so there is no reason to complain.

  21. GoodGrief says:

    Same old public school whining. If these schools recruited then they would dominate year after year. Yes, these schools draw from a larger geographic area but it comes down to the coaching staff and the program. Doesn’t St. Joe’s choke every year in the big games? They always have stellar athletes. La Salle has not been very dominate in the past few years. Every once in a while a school gets the combination of a good coaching staff and a good group of kids and becomes dominate for a few years. It runs in cycles. Look at CB West and North Penn. 2 of the biggest schools in D1. CB West was smaller then North Penn but dominated when Pettine was there. The booted Pettine and his staff which some of went to North Penn and now the roles are reversed. Look at Berwick, botted the coach and now they aren’t very good. Enough about the “Catholic Schools Recruit” bs. Think about it, what benefit does a high school get for offering scholarships? They don’t get sponser money or TV money. It’s about the almighty dollar. In the overall scheme of things why would a high school piss away $15K to win a football championship when in the overall scheme of things are pretty meaningless in the future lives of these kids. Winning the PIAA State Football Championship isn’t going to put that much money in anyone’s pockets. The expense would far exceed the income leaving you in red.

  22. Dog21 says:

    Would the Public School people please stop..You want to talk about recruiting? I remember back in the 90’s parents would move into the CB West district just so their kids could play at West. Many of those kids should have gone to CBEast,Wood,Tennent or other area schools. Why do you think schools like North Penn and Neshaminy are so good? Because they have thousands of kids to choose from in their district..Doesn’t that balance the playing field? It is simple mathematics..If you have a school with 5,000 kids to choose from vs a school with 500, you are going to pull very good talent. Why are CB east and CB West struggling now? Because they added CB South and it diluted the numbers and it hurt all the schools, which is a shame. Because of the “re districting” many of the kids who would have gone to CBWest or CBEast are now going to Arch Wood,LaSalle, St joe’s Prep etc becuase their kids are good players and they want to get a great education and play for a winning program, and they want to get noticed by Colleges to play at the next level. It is cyclical and will change again. In the 70’s Wood had a very good program, in the late 80’s and 90’s they did not.. In the 80’s and 90’sMany of the very good players who played CYO or were actually in a Catholic grade School went to CBEast or CBWest to play for a winning program. Since 2000, Wood and LaSalle have been very good. They have gotten many players that would have gone to CBWEST or CBEast but they want to play for a winning program. With potential re-alignment in the Catholic Schools, it could change again and potentially benefit the Public Schools. Central Bucks is a great School District(one of the best in the state)and my kids will most likely go to CB West. But please stop the crying over the recruitment crap.

  23. Buddy says:

    ” recruit “is the wrong word. Always has been. But are you going to tell me if the football coach hears of an exceptional talent anywhere in the area ( and has an IQ greater than an ice cube), he doesn’t attempt to “recruit” him? I’m sure it’s been done. LaSalle, St. Joes Prep, etc are not restricted by district boundaries as are the public schools. I’m sure this can greatly inhances their program. However, having said this, I still welcome the PCL to the PIAA. Makes for excellent competition.

  24. CitiChamp says:

    Our placekicker is from Southern California, So what…. You public school babies are whining because Ridley lost- Wait til The Prep wins- They have 10-14 kids from South Jersey on their football roster including Eagles coaches Son’s We are a Prep Schools- We can do what we want- Get used to it- The Catholic league will dominate Pennsylvania from now on- Cry Babies Cry……………

  25. BFlem27 says:

    LaSalle for this academic year is $15,400. As a former coach at LaSalle I can tell you they do not recruit. Like other post on here, most of the kids go to LaSalle because of the academics and sports history. But the bigger reason is because there father, brother, uncle or Grandfater have attended LaSalle. Most of the boys do live in District 1 school districts but they are near LaSalle where there local school district will bus them to the school. If a kid lives in a district that will not bus them to LaSalle because they are to far, then the kids parents would have to drive them to and from school. If you would look close at the roster at LaSalle majority of the kids come from two CYO programs near the school. St. Philip Neri and St. Genevieve. But knowing this information is not going to change peoples fellings about the PCL and will always say they recruit.

  26. Rich says:

    “Recruit?” PLEASE! What about some of these public schools that have three and four thousand kids to choose from!? Give me a break!

  27. mike says:


    Yes, I am saying that Lasalle doesn’t recruit. When we were in the process of looking at high schools for our son, we were told early on by the Lasalle AD that there are no scholarships for athletics. There is an academic scholarship for those who scored a 98% or greater on the placement test. (Unfortunately, one of them was not our son.) And as for the Pubs only missing out on the rich kids…we are not even close to being considered rich. We have a two income household. We work a lot of extra time or overtime and we have not done anything to our house in 4 or 5 years. A choice had to made about how much we wanted to sacrifice for the benefit of our kids. Our house is very modest, as are our cars. Our kids have a better understanding of what is important in this world because of what they see us doing for them.

  28. CLARK says:


  29. Joe Blanton says:

    If by “recruit” you mean “approach” kids, well ok, yeah. But they don’t offer scholarships and so the only kids the Pubs are missing out on are the rich ones. Scratch that – the rich ones who’s parents are willing to send them to LaSalle rather than to a free school, AND rich kids who are good at sports. Hmmm…sounds like excuses to me James.

    Why do you supposed GW beat the crap out o LaSalle last year? Or does your theory only apply when LaSalle WINS?

  30. Buddy says:

    Who cares if they recruit or not. I’m glad they play in the PIAA now. If the public schools beat them, the more acolades for the public schools. Makes the competition that much better. Sellingsgrove beat Archbishop Wood, North Penn beat St. Joe’s Prep, etc. I can be, and will be, done. I say welcome to the PCL.

  31. Kmac says:

    I enjoy all comments on high school football because I love the sport so very much. Mike and James recently have interesting posts. Perhaps rather than “recruit”, “advantage” may be a better context choice. I guess everyone has a choice of sending their children to a school other than the one they pay taxes to; but in the public sector its somewhat unusual to pay tuition at one and taxes to another. It would seem that Mike’s reasons for choosing the school is right on. In 59 years of following high school football I think the best team I ever saw was Pittsburgh Central Catholic the year they beat Neshaminy for the Championship. I later learned that 17 school districts fed into that school. I often wonder what the home town of the roster on St. Joes Prep would look like? I think we need a period of five or ten years to see if there is any domination by any league. I wish LaSalle the best saturday; They are our Eastern Rep!

  32. John says:

    LaSalle does not have to recruit! The school’s reputation for academics and athletics speaks for itself. Kids want to attend LaSalle and parents are willing to sacrifice financially to send them there.

    LaSalle had a rare letdown after beating Prep last year while GW had a bye week to prepare. Last time that will happen. Look for Prep or LaSalle in the finals on a regular basis.

  33. szam33 says:

    So you’re saying no scholarships are given for football?? That’s recruiting. Anyway, PCL people hate to hear this complaint and dismiss it as being untrue. The advantages of recruiting were apparent on the line of scrimmage in Saturdays game, which LaSalle dominated. I hate “crying” about recruiting, but it would be great if Ridley could go outside the district and grab a few 6’4 260lb lineman. I’m sure there are a few of them in DELCO tht would love to play for a winning program like Ridley. Anyway, it is what it is…. for now.

  34. Ryan says:

    Not all PCL schools recruit. If you look at the catholic league it is onesided.

  35. Chris says:

    That’s what makes it so great when a public school beats them like last year when Washington beat La Salle

  36. Mike says:

    The boys at Lasalle are not recruited. The parents seek out the school because of it’s college preparatory philosophy. Some kids are there because their fathers and grandfathers are alums. Some are there because their local school districts are lacking in some aspect. Although we live in a school district that, academically, is very highly regarded in SEPA, we chose to send our son to Lasalle. There is more discipline and accountability at Lasalle. There are no distractions from girls at Lasalle. College prep is the mission at Lasalle. Please refrain from the “recruiting” baloney. Parents made the decision to reach very deep into their pockets, sacrifice other things and send their kids to this excellent school.

  37. James says:

    P.S. This is why it’s unfair for the Catholic Schools to compete with public schools. This is what many of us were afraid of and knew would happen.

  38. James says:

    I know I’ll be accused of bashing, but Catholic Schools recruit, simple as that and don’t tell me they don’t, they do. If other schools could recruit players as most Catholic schools do, then wow, you could put together some great teams. If any public school went after players like the Catholic Schools do, they be ripped up and down like Coach Curry was at Berwick several years ago.

  39. David Marble says:

    Thanks for the excellent previews and overall coverage this season! It has been a treat to learn about the top teams from all parts of the state.

    I have one request regarding the identification of La Salle College High School (the school’s formal name). If you haven’t heard from other La Salle alumni, I know I speak for virtually all of us: Please, please, PLEASE stop using “La Salle College” to identify our school. It is simply “La Salle.” No one in the La Salle community, the Philadelphia Catholic League, or the entire southeastern region of the state refers to us as La Salle College. Ever.

    The reason the word “College” is part of the official name of the school is that back in 1863, when the high school was founded, it was formed under the authority of the Charter by which La Salle College (now La Salle University) was created. However, no informal reference to the high school — by administration, faculty, students, parents, alumni, or anyone else except for the PIAA — has included the word “College.” So, for the sake of journalistic accuracy, please identify our school simply as La Salle.


    David Marble
    (La Salle Class of ‘79)