PHILADELPHIA >> Among the many backyard games played among kids, “Rumble Fumble” will always be a classic.
For La Salle junior running back Syaire Madden, it helped mold him into one of the best runners in the PCL and a nightmare for opposing defenses. Seemingly built out of bricks, Madden has no problem with contact or slipping through a hole into daylight.
The one constant is that his legs just never stop moving forward.
“If I had to categorize my style, I’d say it’s just keep my feet moving,” Madden said.
Madden, who rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns in La Salle’s 42-15 win over Simon Gratz in the District 12 title game, has been a workhorse for the Explorers. His steadiness has allowed backfield stablemate Nick Rinella to become a big-time playmaker on both sides of the ball.
Against Gratz, Rinella had a rushing and a receiving touchdown, but his biggest impact came on the defensive side of the ball. The senior forced a fumble for a La Salle touchback, recovered another fumble and had four pass defenses, two of those in the endzone. Rinella doesn’t have to touch the ball much on offense, but he seems to make plays when he does, like his game-winning grab against St. Joe’s Prep in the PCL title game.
Saturday, his defensive play stood out. No play was bigger than the chase down of Amir Gillis and forced fumble out of the endzone that saved what looked like a surefire touchdown.
“If they has scored that touchdown, it would have been a huge momentum changer,” Explorers defensive end Chris Maloney said. “That was a great hustle play by Nick that set the rest of the tone for the game.”
Madden, who gained his love for the game from his older brothers, is driven and focused. But he and his teammates were extra focused on Saturday, knowing they couldn’t let the Prep win weigh too much on them or look past a Gratz team with size and athletes.
“Coach stressed not taking them lightly the whole week,” Madden said. “The whole week he said do not take them lightly. If we prepare every week like we’re playing Prep, then we won’t lose. If we execute, we can’t lose.”
Madden’s first three runs Saturday totaled zero yards but he didn’t stay quiet long. The back’s fourth tote was a 60-yard marauding run through the Gratz defense that showed bursts of his speed and power, including a rigid stiff arm.
The junior couldn’t quite define just what his running style resembles, but if it keeps yielding these kind of outings, it doesn’t really matter. He just aims to get as many yards as he can every time he touches the ball.
“Since I was young, playing Rumble Fumble and all that, I’ve just kept my feet moving,” Madden said. “I don’t know how to describe my style, but it’s a lot of backyard football.”
Madden isn’t a one-man show but he’s likely the first to recognize it. Not only does Rinella give him a spell here and there, but the La Salle offensive line has been clearing paths for him all season. Senior Jimmy Morrissey centers the group which also features seniors TJ Garvin and Conor McCracken on the left and seniors Matt McDermott and Ryan Schutta on the right.
“Oh my gosh, honestly, I’m getting five yards without getting touched,” Madden said. “Coach has been telling me all year, at the beginning I was too fast and not patient, so all year coach was saying ‘listen, if you stay patient, you can easily rush for200 yards per game.’ I put all my trust in my linemen because they give all their heart out for me so the least I can do is give my heart out for them.”
Much like Madden, Rinella credits a lot of his defensive success to the front line. With La Salle’s front four and linebackers creating pressure, it’s easier for him to ballhawk in the secondary and break up passes.
“Our d-line is playing of their minds,” Rinella said. “We have sophomores, juniors and seniors all making plays so it’s real easy for us when the quarterback doesn’t even get the ball off.”
La Salle bought itself another week of the season. As long as they have the tandem of Rinella and Madden, they’ll have a chance to keep adding onto the tab.
They just have to keep their feet moving.
“If I stay patient, the holes are always there,” Madden said.
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