by Jody Kessler
Often adversity can produce real power, and LaSalle showed that in the Catholic League championship football game last Friday night. Facing a halftime deficit against Roman Catholic the Explorers, led again by Jamal Abdur-Rahman, dominated the second half en route to a 35-16 win. They outscored the Cahillites 21-0 in the second half. Abdur-Rahman rushed for 168 yards on 28 carries. Matt Magarity was solid at quarterback in his return from concussion. The defense was outstanding, as it has been all year. Now 10-1, the Explorers will face Northeast High (who beat George Washington Saturday) in the city championship game this Saturday. The win gave them three Catholic League titles in the last three years, quite the accomplishment in the fiercely competitive league.
Played in front of a huge crowd on a cold night at Northeast High, Roman came out fired up to start the game. They scored the first points on a safety when Dennis Regan tackled Tim Wade in the end zone. LaSalle answered with a good drive, a long Magarity pass to Sean Coleman leading to a touchdown run by Magarity. But Roman came right back, behind the running of Marcus Kelly, whose touchdown gave the Cahillites a 9-7 lead. On LaSalle’s next possession things got worse, as Magarity was sacked and he fumbled. Jack Gallagher picked the ball up for Roman and rumbled into the end zone for a score and a 16-7 Roman lead. Then LaSalle got Abdur-Rahman the ball, always a good strategy. He actually broke free for a 59-yard score on the first play but it was called back for holding. Not-to-worry, as they would march down the field and Abdur-Rahman got the touchdown for real, in what would be a momentum booster leading into halftime, although they still trailed 16-14.
The second half began where the first half ended, an Abdur-Rahman led drive. First he scampered for runs of 15 and 20 yards. Then Magarity had a nice run of 20 before Abdur-Rahman capped off the drive with his second touchdown. The senior running back has nearly 1,400 yards rushing on the season and is heading to Villanova. Things got even better for LaSalle as they recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. However they were intercepted on the next play when Magarity went for it all on first down. Abdur-Rahman then showed his defensive skills, intercepting a pass thrown by Roman’s Michael Keir. The pick led to a Magarity touchdown pass to Coleman, a 24 yarder on a swing pass, as LaSalle was pulling ahead up 28-16.
Kevin Forster had his imprint on the game too. After playing quarterback in Magarity’s absence he was back at his usual wideout/safety role, but he also added punting in Kevin Winslow’s absence. Forster punted well and would intercept two passes before the day was done. Abdur-Rahman put the nail in the coffin with a late 30-yard touchdown run.
“I am just so excited,” said Abdur-Rahman. “ It’s our third PCL win in the least three years.” When asked about the first half difficulties Abdur-Rahman said, “we weren’t making our plays like we usually do we weren’t playing good football. In the second half we came out and started to dominate. Defense played lights out in the second half, didn’t let up a score.” Moving on to next week he said, “we need to keep up the hard work, we need to jump on the team in the first half.”
About the three-peat Coach Drew Gordon said, “We never mentioned it to kids. They didn’t hear it from us. If that’s how they wanted to approach it that’s fine, we just saw it as 2010.”
About facing Roman for the second time Gordon said, “I think we were a little bit better prepared. Only gave up the one touchdown. Defense was outstanding.”
At halftime Gordon said he told the kids, “I was disappointed for them, they were on the verge of something, if we’re going to get beat, we’re not going to lose if we beat ourselves, that’s how we played in the first half.”
Gordon said he was scouting Northeast Saturday and said about next week’s game, “I can’t wait.”
Magarity said, “It was a great win. Whenever you win a championship like this over a great team like Roman, they came out and fought real hard in the first half. The last drive we scored on gave us momentum. I’m really proud of my offensive line. They blew them off the ball in the second half. Defense has been great all season. Only let up seven points tonight. Pitching shutouts all season.” About next week he said, “It’s going to be a real good time. Hopefully next week I can play better, made a couple mistakes; first game back.”
LaSalle will play Northeast for the city championship at 12 p.m. on Saturday at Northeast.