by Jody Kessler
Although LaSalle’s opponent was different in the District 12 AAAA championship the result was the same, an Explorer win. At Northeast Saturday for the title LaSalle won handily, 35-0 and now move on to the state playoffs and the winner of Easton-Whitehall next week.
Special teams came up big for the Explorers, with a punt block and two long returns, giving them good field position all day. Northeast started their drives inside their own 25-yard line each time. Kevin Forster made one of those returns, and he scored twice on offense. Although Jamal Abdur-Rahman was held without a big play he was still effective, scoring twice and accounting for the other big punt return. The defense came up huge, pitching the shutout.
“Defense was tremendous,” said coach Drew Gordon. “(Only gave up) three or four first downs. We got to the quarterback. Pretty good pass coverage most of the game. The kids were very well prepared, they bring a lot of intensity, did a great job.”
The Vikings started the game with three consecutive three and outs. After the second Abdur-Rahman returned the punt to the 11-yard line, setting up Forster’s first touchdown. Forster took the snap, faked to Abdur-Rahman and then kept it himself for the score. After the next three and out Connor Reilly blocked the punt. Tim Wade rushed for the second score from the 13-yard line. Finally Northeast produced a first down on their next drive, but they were still forced to punt, even after a big pass play to Rashuan Sligh. LaSalle then put together a nice drive. Somewhat of a rarity for LaSalle as their drives usually consist of a 50-plus yard touchdown run by Abdur-Rahman, this one featured he and Forster. Abdur-Rahman capped it off with a touchdown run. He then showed his defensive prowess on the next Viking possession, with a nice interception. LaSalle would not score again before half and led 21-0. They got out to the good start they were looking for, after trailing last week versus Roman-Catholic.
LaSalle stated with the ball in the second half. Although they had a nice drive they would not score and turned the ball over on downs. The teams then traded three and outs. Then a near safety pinned Northeast deep in their territory. Forster returned the ensuing punt to the 8-yard line. He would score on the next play for his second touch and a 28-0 LaSalle lead. Again LaSalle started with the ball at the 8-yard line when a desperate Northeast faked a punt and failed. Abdur-Rahman put the exclamation point on the day with his second score. LaSalle wrapped up the 35-0 win.
“Special teams were great,” said Gordon. “It’s going to get tougher from here on out.”
About the direct snaps to Forster that produced so many yards he said, “It’s like a wildcat those plays. Kevin’s such a good athelete, his composure is incredible for a kid. I feel very comfortable (with Forster at quarterback instead of Matt Magarity). The players feel very comfortable.”
Moving forward he said, “We need some more continuity on offense. I don’t think we played as well as we’re capable of. If we’re going to make a run at the state championship we’ll have to play better than we did today.”
Forster, a senior, said, “I think it was important we got out to an early lead as opposed to last week and kept it going the whole way. I like the ball in my hands, with the line blocking up there they make big holes, it’s easy. Special teams was huge for us today, great field position all game. Hopefully keep it rolling.”
Lineman and captain Joe Naji was proud of his defense.
“I think our defense was fantastic today, we were really on, limited number of mistakes, good game plan. They mixed a couple things up but we adjusted nicely. We did not come out strong in the first half last week,” he said. “This week we had to make sure to put them away quickly. I think our team is coming together pretty well. There are always things to work on, to get better each week. We have to prepare for each opponent. We have a bye week and we need to use it.”
LaSalle is now 11-1 as Northeast dropped their first game of the year.