Looking At The Explorers
Let's start by looking at the Explorer offense. The offense has been as explosive as humanly possible. It would be easy to rank them as one of the top offenses in the state, and arguably one of the most balanced offenses you'll be able to find. The offense is led by Vanderbilt bound senior QB Kyle Shurmur. On the season Shurmur has amassed 1616 yards on 122-191 passing (63.9% completion rate) and 21 touchdowns through six games. Shurmur's primary receiver has been senior Jimmy Herron, who is Duke-bound for baseball. Herron has 49 catches for 685 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. If St. Joe's Prep thinks they can just cover Herron to win the game, they'd be largely mistaken. Shurmur has completed a pass to four other receivers on a consistent basis. Five players on La Salle have over 100 receiving yards including seniors Jimmy Herron, Charlie Hemcher (21-269), Jordan Meachum (19-334), and juniors Winston Eubanks (12-144) and Nick Rinella (14-135). The Explorers will also feature a tandem run game with senior Jordan Meachum and junior Nick Rinella. Meachum has garnered 403 yards on 82 carries whole Rinella has 110 yards on 25 carries(missed two games with a rib injury). The Explorer offense has been extremely consistent throughout the season, averaging 32.8 points per game and 376.7 total yards per game. The Explorers will look to continue this consistency against a vicious St. Joe's Prep defense.
The Explorers' defense has come up clutch in crunch time. Led by a group of juniors and seniors, the defense can be at times an absolute brick wall. Seniors Aidan Kerrigan and Ryan Brady lead the pack with help from fellow senior Keith Wagner and junior Anthony Piscopo on the line. La Salle's secondary is headed by seniors Jimmy Herron, Mike Crone, and AJ Greseszak. The secondary has done a fantastic job against any kind of passing attack. The team has forced seven interceptions and has made big turnovers happen when duty calls. When the La Salle defense performs at their best, they are truly an impassable brick wall.
Looking At The Hawks
The defending PIAA AAAA state champs have started out their season in a less than ideal way. Like the Explorers, the Hawks also stacked their out-of-league schedule with tough opponents from different states. The Hawks stumbled in their tough schedule. Despite coming off a victory over Malvern Prep 49-28, Prep had lost the prior three games to the likes of St. Joseph Regional (NJ), Don Bosco Prep (NJ), and St. Ignatius (OH). St. Joe's Prep did beat Mt. Carmel (Ill.) to start off the season on a high note. In a big rivalry game like this though, prior records and opponents mean nothing, it's all about this game's performance.
St. Joe's Prep offense is anchored by two stud running backs and a dangerous pass game. The two star running backs for St. Joe's Prep are senior Olamide Zaccheaus, who is bound for Virginia, and the No. 1 sophomore running back in Nation, D'Andre Swift. As a sophomore, Swift already has offers from the likes of Penn State, Rutgers, Delaware and Syracuse. Swift leads the team in rushing so far this season with 298 yards on 43 carries for two touchdowns. Zaccheaus is behind him with 148 yards on 41 carries for three touchdowns. Don't let the numbers fool you, both running backs are capable of breaking out at any moment in the game. These running backs are guarded by a line that features Michigan-bound Jon Runyan and returning senior starters Shane Davis and Mark Ehrlich. The Hawks also feature a pretty dangerous pass attack as well led by QB Jack Clements and WR John Reid. On the season, Clements has passed for 788 yards on 60-107(56.1% completion) and nine touchdowns. John Reid is his main receiver and has caught 23 passes for 403 yards and six touchdowns. Zaccheaus is the next closest with nine catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns. The Hawks will be a very balanced offensive team that will look towards Reid, Swift, and Zaccheaus to make the big plays. If the Explorers can shut down the run game and limit the big plays, they should have a relatively easy time handling the Hawks.
The St. Joe's defense will be another solid defensive test for the Explorers. St. Joe's will feature DB John Reid, who was recently selected to play in the US Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. The Hawks defense has returned plenty of experience, but has failed to really stop the high powered offenses of Don Bosco and SJR like they were able to do for a majority of the season last year. St. Joe's returns all three linebackers from last season featuring junior Joe DuMond, who has garnered a good amount of Division-1 interest so far including an offer from Old Dominion. St. Joe's Prep returns four starters from the line led by senior DE Jake Strain. The secondary will be led by Reid, mixed with a slew of other players rotating in and out. The Hawks return the experience, but another problem must be occurring somewhere else. Or maybe it was just their tough schedule. The Explorer offense should look to just keep playing their game and keep it mixed up to keep the defense off balance.
St. Joe's record coming in doesn't matter here. La Salle's record doesn't account for anything in this game. The strong rivalry gets the players so amped up, both teams might as well be playing their best. So, at the team's best, who is better? Explorers have shown to get it done and have shown flashes of brilliance throughout the season. St. Joe's Prep has shown that they are capable of beating good teams, but have failed to do so in their three big match ups. It really depends how the Hawks have reacted to the beatings they have taken, are they more motivated to get better, or are they completely demoralized and hopeless? Hopefully, the Malvern game has shown some kind of life in them. In the end I can't go against my school, especially in a game like this. Explorers win 28-13.
Won't be at the game? Don't worry, the game will be livestreamed via SFBN here starting around 7:15. If you can't watch the stream for some reason, make sure to follow @LaSalle_Sports for constant score updates throughout the game!
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