This Saturday afternoon comes a long awaited rematch between La Salle and St. Joseph's Prep. It is a rivalry like no other, two Philly teams faceoff as they have been for decades in the Catholic League championship. In recent time, the Prep has won the last two titles while the last time La Salle has taken home to title was in 2012. In the regular season bout, SJP defeated the Explorers 49-24. Both teams are coming off solid regular season's and have momentum going into this game. The Explorers are looking for some revenge for the last few years and are coming in hungry and ready to take back the hubcap. Nevertheless, Saturday will prove to be a physical, dirty, hard fought, dog fight for the coveted PCL plaque.
Looking at the Explorers
If you looked at the Explorers week 1 vs. PCL Championship week, there is a great disparity. Throughout the course of the year, La Salle has grown both on the field and on paper. This week versus SJP, they have all the weapons in the world. Sr. Winston Eubanks is back on the field for the second week in a row after missing most of the season with a dislocated elbow. Eubanks also reeled in a 25 yard touchdown as well. At the quarterback position, the Explorers will use both Sr. Chris Ferguson and So. Isaiah Jones throughout the game. They should utilize Ferguson through the air a lot with Rinella, Eubanks (2 TD's vs Judge) , and Headen. Look for Rinella out of the slot a lot and Eubanks on deep throws. On the ground attack, Jr. Syaire Madden will get most of the carries along with Sr. Nick Rinella. Last week, Madden went for 136 yards on 24 touches while Rinella had 82 yards on 16 touches. Furthermore, the La Salle offensive line will need to step up this game. They have been fantastic all year but in the first matchup vs SJP, it seemed Madden and Ferguson weren't allowed much time for decision making. Ferguson was often rushed and Madden was often tackled for losses. They need to create holes for Madden and allow him opportunities for yards. In the end, La Salle has everything a great team could ask for; a solid tackle breaking tailback, both mobile and accurate quarterbacks, dangerous receivers, and a massive O-line. They need to utilize all of their weapons come Saturday if they want a shot at the hubcap.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Explorers have shutdown other opposing offenses lately. Last week, both Sr. Nick Rinella and Sr. Jared Walls came up with two clutch interceptions. Rinella has really stepped up over the course of the year as a cornerback making great plays and limiting opposing quarterbacks. At linebacker, So. Austin Lemke and Sr. Jared Walls have really shutdown the middle half of the field. They have allowed minimal run's for other teams and have had quarterback's move to the outside of the field. Saturday, the defense needs to shut SJP down on all fronts. The need to stop D'Andre Swift and Benny Walls on the ground, limit the air attack, and be solid on special teams. In the first meeting, the Explorers gave up a key kickoff return for a touchdown which really separated the game and allowed the Hawks to get out front.
Looking at the Hawks
The St. Joes Prep Hawks are hands down one of the best teams in the area. That all is probably in part to their fantastic ground effort each and every game. They are led by 5'10'', 205lb tailback D'Andre Swift and 6'1'', 193 lb Sr. Benjamin Walls. Swift is said to be one of the best running backs in the nation with offers from Alabama, LSU, Penn State, Michigan, Auburn and a list of many more. Through 2015 he has rushed for 1011 yards on 152 carries and 11 touchdowns. Now lets not get to excited about Swift. Walls is also a very great rusher. To be honest, Walls did most of the damage vs La Salle back in October. Nevertheless, the Explorers will need to handle both of them and prevent and long plays from either. Now in the passing effort, SJP has Sr. Kevin Shaw at the helm. When they do pass, Shaw has targets in Sr. Mike Slawson, Sr. Zach Gross, and Sr. Terrance Green. All of these are great receiver's when Shaw does get rid of the ball.
On the opposite site of the ball, SJP lines up pretty well with La Salle. They like to lock down the middle of the field ALOT and love to rush the quarterback whatever the situation. Sr. Mike Vandevere ( MLB/FB) leads the core squad along with Sr. Joe Dummond (DE). The first go around with the Explorers they limited the rushing game coming from Syaire Madden. What they didn't do was stop the QB draws from So. Isaiah Jones. Jones had a bunch of delayed draw's right up the middle including one for 49 yards down to the SJP 1. SJP has a tall order to handle vs The Explorers so we will have to wait and see what happens.
If you ask anyone to look at both of these two teams on paper without knowing the La Salle Explorers, they would probably pick SJP to win. After seeing La Salle every single minute this year and having followed intensely as of late, the Explorers are 10X the team they were just five weeks ago. They have all the options in the world to use against the Prep. They have nothing to lose. They're going "all in." I find it eerie that the last time the Explorers won the Catholic League Championship, it was a Saturday, at 1:00 in the afternoon, and La Salle was the visitor. Its not odd at all that it lines up perfectly the same for this go around. Every single time that the Explorers have defeated the Prep for the hubcap they lost by a pretty big margin earlier in the year to them. It is going to be the same thing this year. History will repeat itself. La Salle will be holding the PCL championship come 4:00 Saturday afternoon. 35-27 La Salle Explorers.
Come out to Plymouth-Whitemarsh HS on Saturday at 1:00pm for the Philadelphia Catholic League AAAA Championship! Cant make it to the game? Be sure to follow along @LaSalle_Sports for live game updates and be sure to check back to the site for future game previews! Also, be sure to check out Chris Jastrzembski's latest piece on the La Salle - SJP rivalry by clicking here! Also be sure to check out the promo on the top of the page done beautifully by La Salle senior, Christopher Sanders.
- Christopher Sanders
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