Rivalry - A state or situation in which people or groups are competing with each other.
Just a simple Merriam-Webster dictionary definition doesn’t define the bitter rivalry that is La Salle and St. Joe’s Prep. In a city that has Pat’s against Geno’s, Villanova and St. Joe’s, and Army against Navy, there’s one rivalry that holds a special place in my heart. It’s also one that I’ve been a part of for four years (and counting).
La Salle and St. Joe’s Prep have gone at it for a very long time. Prep currently leads the head-to-head series in football 47-35-5, including a 49-24 win at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School just five weeks ago. Prep has also won the last five straight against the Explorers, and have probably the best junior running back in the nation in D’Andre Swift.
But I’m not here to give a preview. If you want a preview, check out Chris Sanders’s piece.
I’m here to give my thoughts on the rivalry. One that I’m still passionate about about a year-and-a-half after I graduated from La Salle, and from nearly 250 miles away. I still get a little excited whenever I hear that we beat Prep in something. Whether it’s football, golf, bowling, every other sport, or mathletes. And I still get mad whenever we lose to them.
Two years ago, Steve Dolan ’08 and 1994 Prep grad and current CBS3 Executive Producer Steve Lindsay wrote from their perspectives about this rivalry. Lindsay and I have already made a small bet for the game, so I’m really hoping La Salle wins. I also might see him going to work at KYW this week. So La Salle football guys, please win.
I never played a sport at La Salle, excluding on a “special” occasion, which is a different story. I was a manager instead, with mainly lacrosse, hockey, and football. Each of those three sports has a special moment that involved the Hawks. And in all three, we prevailed.
In lacrosse, participating in my last PCL ever as a student, we fell to Prep 3-0 at the half. We couldn’t get anything going on offense. It looked like our run of back-to-back PCLs would end. But we wouldn’t die. We stormed and took the lead at the end of the quarter, and were pulling away. But St. Joe’s eventually tied the game up late, and on an unbelievable goal by then-PCL MVP and current Navy player Pat Walsh. The energy that we had got sucked out of us. For me, I thought we’d go to overtime and lose. But that was a thought, and it never came to fruition. Zach Drake, now at Lehigh, scored the game-winner with 8.7 seconds left. A face-off win by Penn commit Anthony Giuliani sealed the win, and the three-peat. It was a nice way to end my managerial career in the Catholic League. And as a varsity manager, I never lost to Prep in lacrosse. (VIDEO)
But let’s rewind a few months back to the 2014 Flyers Cup at the Skatium between the two teams. Earlier that season, St. Joe’s Prep beat La Salle for the first time ever at the same venue. The two teams met at Hatfield Ice later in the season, where Andrew Romano scored a hat-trick and one of the craziest student sections helped the Explorers prevail over the Prep. The Explorers got the first goal thanks to Coty Thomas, but the Hawks tied it at one heading into the second. The Hawks scored the first three goals in the period. Yet again, it felt like we would lose. But with under four minutes left in the period, current Ohio Bobcat Collin Gustafson cut the lead to two goals, heading to the locker room.
The final period would be dominated by La Salle, and that glimmer of light was beaming. Albert Washco and current Johnstown Tomahawk Andrew Romano helped La Salle get back in the game, and the game would go to overtime for the second straight game. The Explorers just beat Holy Ghost Prep in a thrilling double overtime game nearly a week before. Almost four minutes after the start of the extra session, Thomas scored his second goal of the game, and the Explorers skated off with their fourth straight Flyers Cup Championship. (VIDEO)
And let’s rewind one more time to November of 2012, my junior year at La Salle. In football, we played Prep on a Saturday afternoon at PW, designated as the away team (sound familiar?). Earlier in that season, we lost to Prep, which was our only loss to date. It was a tough game, but the team stacked with seniors knew that it was do-or-die time. They wanted to beat Prep one final time and capture the unbelievable five-peat in the Catholic League. La Salle had a fantastic start in that game, leading 14-0 at the half thanks to two touchdowns by current Harvard lacrosse midfielder Sean Coleman.
But the second half was a different story, and Prep wasn’t going away. Current Pitt baseball player Jawan McAllister blocked a punt by current Pitt punter Ryan Winslow, which led to a Prep touchdown in the 3rd. On the next Prep drive, current Virginia running back Olamide Zaccheaus tied the game up at 14. The Explorers responded right after, as current Kutztown quarterback Chris Kane found Coleman for his third score of the day. But it lasted 14 seconds, as Zaccheaus returned the kickoff to the house.
The final minutes of the 4th quarter was crazy. Kane got intercepted by current West Chester linebacker Dan Sherry. Then, current Johns Hopkins QB Chris Martin (not related to the Coldplay singer) got a pass intercepted by current Brown lacrosse midfielder Steve Hudak. But with 58 seconds left, Kane got sacked and the ball came loose, and Prep recovered. A 40-yard field goal would have won the game, but kicker Kyle Battin couldn’t convert. I’m not sure why he couldn’t convert, but some players said that Dadd Poquie tipped the ball.
Either way, we went to overtime, and Prep got the ball first. Zaccheaus scored to give the Hawks the lead. But it wasn’t the traditional seven. It was six. On the extra point, the snap was high, and the hold wasn’t good. Battin couldn’t get the ball through the uprights. ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me’ I thought. A touchdown and extra point would give La Salle a memorable win. On La Salle’s drive, Kane connected to….Coleman again. The game was tied, and Winslow could win it. On the sidelines, everyone, coaches, players, and managers, linked arms and watched the kick. What ensued next was chaos, and one of the best moments that I would ever remember. The field was stormed with blue and white. We were Catholic League champions yet again! And we beat Prep to get it! Never. Say. Die. (VIDEO)
It was a hard-fought battle, but it would turn bittersweet. The following day was the annual La Salle Open House, where all the buzz would be about football’s thriller (soccer also advanced in the State Tournament after the football game was over). But shortly before the Open House began, a La Salle cornerstone, and the first person that many La Salle graduates met when they visited, Brother James Rieck, suffered a fall preparing for the day. I was at the Open House that day, and although our goal was to promote our school to prospective students and parents, the thought of if he would be okay always stuck, and it stuck for about a week, until he passed away. The entire school was united through this tough time, and his legacy is still around the school today. The last event he took pictures for was that PCL Championship.
This rivalry is something that always has excitement, and it brings out the best in everyone that participates. It also has some of the best athletes from around the Delaware Valley. Many of the athletes are playing in college or elsewhere. And players are both sides are still happy when their team beats their rival. This rivalry never leaves you. Inside, there will always be a small hatred for the Prep. One kid at Newhouse went to Prep and we talk about many of the games between the two schools. He played basketball, and he recalls the trash-talking he did to current Colgate forward Dave Krmpotich last season. Even though we hate each other’s school, we’re surprisingly brought together by this intense rivalry.
I will be at the game tomorrow to see my boys play their hearts out, and I hope that it turns out to be another classic, and another La Salle win. Hail La Salle!