St. Joe's Prep got off to a fast start as quarterback Chris Martin hit running back Olamide Zaccheaus on a 20-yard pass down to the Explorers goal line before he was stopped by La Salle linebacker Zaire Franklin. The Hawks would pound it in on the next play as Martin kept it on a quarterback-keeper to put St. Joe's up 7-0.
After a La Salle three-and-out, the Hawks went back to work and drove right down the field with ease. Martin his wide receiver Jawan McAllister on a 14-yard fade to the end zone to put St. Joe's Prep up 14-0. Another three-and-out by La Salle gave the Hawks another redzone opportunity only the Explorers came up big as A.J. Greseszak intercepted Martin in the end zone to end the Hawks bid to go up 21-0 in the first quarter and 28-7 at halftime.
La Salle opened the second half with a long, long 16-play, 80 yard drive that was capped off by a nine-yard Levi Hardy touchdown reception to make it 28-14. The Hawks countered the Explorers drive with a 12-play, 67-yard drive of their own that ended on a 22-yard Swift reception right down the seam to put St. Joe's up 35-14 with 1:08 remaining in the third quarter.
Game's over, right? Wrong.
Shurmur led the Explorers down the field to begin the fourth quarter and hit Rinella for a 20-yard touchdown pass to make it a 35-21 game. The Explorers defense found their stride and were swarming keeping Martin off-balance and forcing St. Joe's to call their last timeout with 6:29 remaining in the game. The play-clock appeared to become Martin's enemy as the La Salle student section got louder and louder, Martin began to struggle getting the plays in time.
The Explorers forced a St. Joe's punt to Jimmy Herron who returned it down to the Hawks' 30-yard line. La Salle would continue putting on pressure as the drive was capped off by a one-yard Ryan Brady touchdown run to make it a 35-28 game with 3:58 remaining but St. Joe's would hold strong to win 35-28.
PCL AAAA Championship:
It is a rematch of last year's PCL Championship thriller which saw La Salle win their fifth straight title in an exciting 28-27 overtime victory. Sean Coleman set a record with 14 receptions for 138 yards and a record four touchdown receptions in the La Salle victory. St. Joe's Prep stud Olamide Zaccheaus scored on a 10-yard run in overtime, notched a receiving touchdown, and scored on a 90-yard kick return which tied the game at 21. La Salle won in overtime on Coleman's fourth touchdown and a Ryan Winslow PAT. La Salle is looking for their 15th PCL Football title tonight.
La Salle is coming off a dominant 35-0 trouncing of Father Judge in the semifinals that saw junior Kyle Shurmur set a city playoff record with five passing touchdowns. While St. Joe's Prep is coming off a strong performance against Roman Catholic jumping out to a 38-0 lead and winning by a 45-24 margin.
From 1920-43, Saint Joe's Prep went 13-0-3 in the rivalry. La Salle put together their own impressive streak going 14-3 between 1976 and 1992. The Hawks reeled off 16 consecutive wins from 1999 to 2005. But, on Thanksgiving Day 2005, La Salle took down St. Joe's in an instant-classic which shifted the rivalry. The Explorers have won six of their last eight matchups and eight of the last 13, including last year's PCL Championship. (Thanks to Ted Silary for the heads up on the stats).
Friday night is shaping up to be a classic. Kickoff is slated for 7:00 pm at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting. There are some ticket still available for the game which can be purchased at the gate for $10. Be sure to follow along @WhizWitSports on Twitter for live in-game updates.
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