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LaSalle College High School….

Written by: on Thursday, December 16th, 2010. Follow Josh Funk on Twitter.

 

PIAA AAAA STATE CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW – LaSalle College High School (13-1)

Championship teams don’t rebuild. They reload. Many apologies from this writer for beginning with an old and tired sports cliche, but for this edition of the LaSalle College High School Explorers, it is a fairly appropriate statement.

After the Explorers claimed the Philadelphia Catholic League’s first ever PIAA football championship with an impressive 24-7 victory over State College last December, graduation reared its ugly head. Gone was career 5,000-yard passer Drew Loughery. Gone were WRs Sam Feleccia and Connor Hoffman, as well as tight end Steve Jones. Gone were offensive linemen Steve Szostak, Matt DiGiacomo and Dylan Gavin; LBs Ryan Saraceni and Anthony Cognetti; DB Vinny Migliarese and Shane Brady.

The more things seem to change, though, the more they stay the same. Because the Explorers simply plugged up the vacancies with a new batch of capable and talented players with some key pieces returning from their PIAA title team, they are back on the AAAA championship game stage, in position to claim a second consecutive golden football.

LaSalle College will meet WPIAL champion North Allegheny (14-1) in the PIAA AAAA state championship game Saturday evening at HersheyPark Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m. The Explorers enter the game on a 12-game winning streak, while North Allegheny has limited its two PIAA inter-district playoff opponents to a combined 28 yards rushing.

The Explorers cracked the national rankings prior to their Eastern Final game with North Penn, checking in at #22 in the nation by the USA-Today’s Super-25 high school football poll. LaSalle finished the 2009 season ranked #24 in the nation in the USA-Today poll. Playing for PIAA titles helps draw national attention – but so does winning 36 of your last 41 games and three consecutive Philadelphia Catholic League AAAA championships.

Overall, LaSalle has won 12 Philadelphia Catholic League football championships, its first coming in 1955. The Explorers have won 460 games as a member of the PCL since it began playing football in the league in 1920. But there were two brief stints in which LaSalle did not compete in the PCL (1921-’22; 1928-’33). The 2010 season included, LaSalle has posted 11 seasons of 10+ victories, and their 14 wins in 2009 tied the school record for victories in a season, established with the PCL championship team of 1996, which went 14-0. LaSalle has posted three undefeated and untied football seasons in its history – 1955, 1957 and 1996.

And since the PCL became affiliated with the PIAA in football, beginning in 2008, the league has posted a pretty impressive PIAA playoff resume. Between LaSalle, AAA power Archbishop Wood and AA power West Catholic, the PCL has won 16 PIAA inter-district playoff games against only 5 losses. That works out to a winning percentage of .761. The three schools have played in a combined eight PIAA Eastern Final games in the last three years, winning five.

LaSalle has some history on its side entering this matchup. Prior to 2010, among all four classifications, there were 21 instances in PIAA title games where a team reached the state finals in defense of a state championship victory the previous season. In those 21 instances, the defending champion won 14 times and lost the other seven. The two most recent successful defenses of PIAA titles occurred in 2008 – Thomas Jefferson won the AAA state title and Steelton-Highspire claimed the crown in Class A. You have to go back a little ways to find the last two unsuccessful defenses of PIAA titles. Rochester surrendured its state title crown to Southern Columbia in 2002 and Manheim Central did the same against Thomas Jefferson in 2004.

The Explorers have been dominant on the defensive side of the ball. Don’t be fooled by the 35 points and more than 300 yards of offense North Penn put up on the Explorers in the Eastern Finals into thinking LaSalle’s defense is second-rate. It is not. The only other team to score more than 20 points in a game against the Explorer defensive unit was New Jersey football power Bergen Catholic, who put up 22 points in a Week 2 victory over LaSalle. In its 14 games this season, the LaSalle defense (both first string and reserves) has allowed a total of 10.4 points per game, with four shutouts. In an 11-game stretch, beginning with West Catholic and ending with Easton Area, the Explorers’ defense (including reserves) yielded a grand total of 75 points (6.8 points per game).

Key contributors to the Explorers’ defensive unit include DLs Ryan Geiger and Joe Naji, LBs Connor Daly and Tim Wade, DBs Jamal Adbur-Rahman and Sean Coleman and S Kevin Forster.

Offensively, LaSalle has many varied and talented weapons. The Explorers are more of a running-oriented offense this year than last, but it’s the ground attack that helped them claim PIAA gold last season. Starting up front with the offensive line keyed by Geiger (6’1, 260), Naji (6’2, 225), Cameron Cappo (6’2, 215), Daniel Ezzo (6’5, 235) and Sean Toner (6’1, 225), LaSalle has churned out more than 3,100 yards and 43 rushing touchdowns as a team and averages 224 yards per game on the ground.

Three main players front the Explorers rushing attack – Abdur-Rahman, Wade and Forster. Abdur-Rahman, who is bound for Villanova, leads the trio with 1,705 yards and 24 touchdowns. For his career, Adbur-Rahman has recorded 3,911 rushing yards, leaving him just 89 yards shy of becoming the 4th PCL back (and first LaSalle back) with 4,000+ career rushing yards. Abdur-Rahman has also scored touchdowns receiving, on a kickoff return and an interception return this season. Wade, only a junior who also plays linebacker on defense, has run for 439 yards and scored six total touchdowns.

Forster can be utilized in numerous ways for LaSalle on offense. When junior field general Matt Magarity missed some games with injury, Forster took over the reins of the Explorer offense and ran a near-flawless spread-option attack. He’s run for 390 yards, thrown for 302 more, and reeled in 15 passes for 181 yards, accounting for 10 total touchdowns. Forster also leads the Explorers in interceptions, with six.

Magarity has connected on 80-of-145 passes for 1,149 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, and receivers Coleman (team-best 481 yards) and Colin Buckley (244 yards) are potential targets, as are Abdur-Rahman (287 yards) and Mike Piscopo (133 yards).

On special teams, sophomore kicker Ryan Winslow has proven a steady and accurate booter, converting 49 PATs and four field goals, scoring 61 total points (13 percent of LaSalle’s season scoring output).

The Explorers have scored 467 points this season, an average of 33.3 points per game. The 467 points is unofficially the ninth-best single season scoring output in District 12/Philadelphia Catholic League history, and betters LaSalle’s 2009 season scoring output of 456 points in 15 games.

Can LaSalle make it two state titles for the PCL in a row? Find out Saturday evening.

EasternPAFootball.com’s Armand “The Godfather” Vanore helped contribute some of the information appearing in this preview.

Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball


Leave a Reply

21 Responses to “LaSalle College High School….”

  1. CR says:

    Jive Turkey,

    I apologize that you could not infer what I was saying in my earlier comment but others could.

  2. CR says:

    Josh,

    No problem. Keep up the good work buddy.

  3. LS 1979 says:

    Hi Woody … that’s interesting. Do you know if that was the way most La Salle students referred to the school back then? My earliest firsthand reference was around 1970, when a neighbor of mine attended. He always referred to it simply as La Salle. I also had a boss from the class of ’63 and a coach from the class of ’64 who did likewise.

    For the record, it’s not that I don’t like “La Salle College,” per se, it’s just that the common usage has been La Salle — and I think the PIAA did the school a disservice by disseminating “La Salle College.”

    In any event, let’s hope for a great game tomorrow. Merry Christmas!

  4. Observant says:

    Let’s put it this way: if you have a loved one who is in dire need of brain surgery and you discover that the surgeon goes by the name “Buddy,” transfer your loved one to another hospital.

  5. Woody says:

    My brother went to LaSalle College High back in the 50’s and still to this day refers to it as LaSalle College High.

  6. LS 1979 says:

    Hi LSCHS! Good to see another La Salle alum here! Let’s hope the guys play up to their capabilities on Saturday. If they do, I think they’ll win, but North Allegheny has an excellent squad, too — good enough to win if La Salle doesn’t bring its A-game.

    Go easy on Buddy, as there were several sportswriters who picked La Salle over State College. On the other hand, most sportswriters did consider State College the favorite. One of them was Rod Frisco, whom many consider the dean of Pennsylvania high school football sportswriters. He predicted a 17-14 State College victory, but had a lot of respect for La Salle. Here’s a link to his preview of last year’s title game: http://highschoolsports.pennlive.com/news/article/-5998476911433261769/piaa-class-aaaa-championship-game-preview-la-salle-college-hs-vs-state-college/

    Before I sign off for now, here’s a quick question: How cool is it that we’re having the “title game discussion” two years in a row? GO LA SALLE!!!

  7. LS 1979 says:

    Hi flippenphil, thanks for the remarks. Three schools with the word “College” in their names come to mind for me: State College, Girard College, and La Salle College High School. There are probably others, too, but they’re not coming to mind at the moment.

    In La Salle’s case, the use of “College” in the official name does, indeed, have a rich history (which I’ve included in the Note below, for anyone interested in reading it).

    I agree that the community (or at least an authorized representative of it, perhaps the principal or athletic director) should decide what a school should be called — which, as you recognize, was my original point. As a La Salle alumnus, athlete (during my days there), and father of two current students, I consider myself part of the La Salle community.

    Everyone, and I mean *everyone*, in the La Salle community and in the Philadelphia Catholic League refers to the school as “La Salle.” On the flip side, no one, and I mean *no one*, whether in the La Salle community or the PCL — or even in the overall Philly region, for that matter — has EVER referred to the school as “La Salle College.” That incorrect designation seems to have originated on the desk of a PIAA bureaucrat when the PCL joined the PIAA several years ago. In its press releases, playoff brackets, and published schedules the PIAA has taken to using “La Salle College” to identify the school, despite the fact that it was never identified that way before. Sportswriters and bloggers outside of the Philly region picked up that usage, and it is now widespread. It’s wrong, but it’s widespread.

    As for stripping the school of its rich history, it’s a valid concern but I don’t think that applies in this instance. Throughout the Philly region the school has been universally known as “La Salle” for so long that it’s already pretty much a “fact on the ground,” so to speak. Also, I can’t imagine the day when the school would drop the word “College” from its official name, so its history ought to be safe. Good point, though; I hadn’t thought of that before.

    Okay … as for comparisons with last year’s game, I agree that North Allegheny will be a stiffer test than last year’s State College team. This game makes me nervous — as did last week’s North Penn game. I hope La Salle rises to the occasion again, but I expect a very tight game dominated by defense.

    And finally, here is the HISTORICAL NOTE I promised(cut-and-pasted from the website of La Salle College High School):

    “La Salle began at the St. Michael’s School at Second and Jefferson Streets in Philadelphia. The Christian Brothers opened a school there and taught their first classes on July 20, 1858. Initially known as the ‘Select School,’ it eventually took the name ‘Christian Brothers Academy.’ In 1863, the Academy became the college preparatory division of what was then La Salle College.

    “In 1867, La Salle moved to Juniper and Filbert Streets. Within a few years, greater space needs compelled a move to broader, greener space. In 1882, the Brothers acquired the mansion of Michael Bouvier — a prominent Philadelphia banker — located on Broad Street near Girard Avenue.

    “La Salle’s odyssey continued in the twentieth century. As the city grew up around the school and space needs expanded, a decision was made to move to a new location in what was then unspoiled “country.” In 1929, La Salle opened a new campus in Belfield in the Wister Woods section of Philadelphia.

    “For its entire life up to 1960, La Salle College and La Salle High School shared the same campus. At the dawn of the 1960’s, the high school separated from the college and moved to its present campus on Cheltenham Avenue in Springfield Township, Montgomery County. …

    “In 1982, the geographic separation between the college and the high school became formal, as the two entities legally separated and the high school formed its own Board of Trustees with responsibility for the school’s direction.”

    GO LA SALLE!

  8. LSCHS says:

    @Buddy, your agenda on here is clear; you just love to bash the PCL and all its’ kids!

    Do your homework, State College was a prohibitive favorite over LS. Of course, we saw first hand which team was truly talented and which one was smoke and mirrors!

  9. flippenphil says:

    there are several schools in the state which have the word “college” in their name. many times this is because it is in a college town, or it started as a college, and now is also or only a high school. there is history in every case. To drop “college” from the name should be up to the community. By doing so you are stripping the school of its rich history. good luck on saturday, i hope this team is more powerful and loaded than last year because this year i think they may have to be a bit better.

  10. LS 1979 says:

    Hi, Jive Turkey. I think you and CR are on the same page. If I’m reading his comment accurately, he’s saying that his ’98 La Salle team would have represented the PCL well *if* the league had been in the PIAA at the time.

    And you’re right, La Salle is top-notch academically. Last year it had the most National Merit Semifinalists in Pennsylvania, and is regularly among the best schools in the state academically. They make those kids hit the books hard. Students take an entrance exam and are admitted on a competitive basis that includes a review of their entrance exam scores, academic record, standardized test scores from grade school, and teacher/principal recommendations.

    Also, I’ve seen comments on other threads at this website (by other people, not you, Jive Turkey) which state or imply that La Salle offers full scholarships to football players. That’s categorically false. The greatest amount of scholarship money offered to incoming students is the President’s Scholarship (offered to students who score among the top one percent (1%) on the entrance exam), which until the past year or two was $5,000 per year — less than one-third the annual tuition. (It was recently increased to a full-tuition scholarship, but remains a purely academic scholarship — not athletic.) Need-based financial aid is available in the form of third-party loans and some limited grants, but it would be wrong for anyone to say that La Salle is giving football players a free ride. The reality is that the parents of these kids are making HUGE sacrifices for their sons to attend a phenomenal academic school with tremendous sports teams.

    Bottom line, it is an excellent school academically which runs a clean, above-board athletic department.

    And, Jive … I’m glad the PCL is now a PIAA member league, because it used to be that the Philadelphia “City Championship” was the highest mountain PCL athletes could climb. (And even that was struck down in a court challenge as of 1980.) It’s better for the kids that the PCL and Philadelphia Public League are part of the PIAA. A “state champ” in any sport should include that state’s largest city.

  11. LS 1979 says:

    Josh, thanks for the excellent coverage of eastern Pennsylvania high school football. I enjoy your evenhanded treatment of the teams, leagues, games, and previews. Good stuff.

    I am an alumnus of La Salle College High School (class of 1979) and currently have two sons who attend school there. As I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve been following with great pride the accomplishments of our football team over the past several seasons — and the prominence they’ve earned in the PIAA.

    I am writing to you because the PIAA has created the misconception throughout Pennsylvania that the school is commonly referred to as “La Salle College” when, in reality, every alumnus and everyone in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, without exception, refers to it simply as “La Salle” — and always has. While the full, official name of the school is, indeed, La Salle College High School, it has never been known as “La Salle College”; it has always been La Salle.

    I have to say, it is nothing short of exasperating to witness how widespread the usage of the incorrect “La Salle College” has become in the world of Pennsylvania sportswriters and bloggers. I have mentioned this usage in conversation with former classmates and other La Salle alumni, and they have been unanimous in objecting to the use of “La Salle College” to refer to our school.

    So, Josh, in light of this history I request, respectfully, that you refer to our school as La Salle alumni and the public at large in southeastern Pennsylvania do: La Salle. Please, please, please drop “College” when you write about our team or school. Thank you!

    Meantime, keep the excellent info and reporting coming our way. Much appreciated!

  12. Jive Turkey says:

    CR
    I know LaSalle is a very strong academic school. I’m not sure if you took anything out of that great education LaSalle offers. PCL was NOT in the PIAA in 1998, therefore your 98 team could not have represented the PCL in the PIAA playoffs.

  13. paul from philly says:

    Part of last years team (QB, linemen, running back and receivers) and most of this years team (QB, linemen, running back and receivers) have been playing together since JV CYO football for a parish in Erdenheim, Pa. ST. Genevieve’s might be one of the greatest feeder programs I have ever seen. They “reloaded” right out of fifth grade.

  14. Buddy says:

    @ deo7: Your statement just sounds guilty. No one will be chanting that unless they are from North Allegheny.

    @LSCHS: LaSalle WAS favored over SC last year, so there was no joke.

  15. LSCHS says:

    Deo, relax, you’ll never change what these people think!

    We all heard last year how SC would crush us; the joke was on them!

    Go LaSalle!

  16. deo7 says:

    Buddy…The way the article was written it seem to imply that and you know some of these knuckleheads would take it as Gospel and run with it and never stop. You know it is coming and it is not right trying to take the kids success and achievement away from them. I had about enough of it already. My son played at “The Prep” when they were ranked #3 in the nation and after we would beat supposedly elite public school teams they would bring up the same crap…after they lost of course.

  17. PCL Fan says:

    deo7 good comment heading off the reload comment. If Josh would have researched a little more at the season start he would have seen that 14 of 22 spots on offense and defense are filled by a player who started at least 3 games last year. They were returning 3 “all state” players who go both ways. Their RBs were both back, 3 key players on both lines returned as well as receivers who had over 60 catches combined. QB was the big hole to fill if they were to be a passing offense but that is not the focus this year so QB has been fine.

    To those that know the program or anyone who was looking at who was returning it was not a surpise. To those in the rest of the state who give the PCL no credit, there are a lot of apologies. Thanks Josh.

  18. Josh Funk says:

    CR,

    Thanks for making note of this. LaSalle was 12-1 in 1998 and 14-0 in 1996. I made the correction in the story. I got my columns crossed looking at Ted Silary’s website in the year-by-year records section.

  19. Buddy says:

    @1: No reason to start that is there? It’s a new posting! Wait for an accusation, you seem TOO defensive.

  20. CR says:

    I was on the 1998 team. We were very good and would have represented the PCL well in PIAA but we lost one game to Ryan 14-7 in OT. I think we were 13-1.

  21. deo7 says:

    They “reloaded” with players that were on the varsity, JV or freshman team last year. No new players or transfers…before anyone shoots off their mouth without the facts!



Josh