PHILADELPHIA >> It was closer than last time, but La Salle still couldn’t find a way to stop St. Joseph’s Prep.
The Hawks defeated La Salle 35-14 at Northeast High on Friday to claim the PCL’s 6A title. La Salle back Syaire Madden ran for 154 yards in his final game while Prep standout D’Andre Swift ran for 176 yards.
Madden and his 18 fellow seniors saw their careers come to an end, but they did so knowing they left all they had on the field
“It doesn’t feel like it’s over,” Madden said. “If I talk about it, it makes me feel… it just doesn’t feel over. All 60 guys, we all wanted it, man. The coaches said leave it all out on the field. The worst thing we could do was come out of this game with regrets.”
The Explorers didn’t want a repeat of the last meeting between the two teams a few weeks back. In that one-sided loss on the scoreboard, Swift had gashed La Salle up and down the field and the Explorers defense could do little to slow him. It was a performance that seemingly put the Prep on its way to a state title run.
On the other side, it was motivation for the Explorers and Madden said it gave them the fire to come into Friday night and take it at the Hawks. Following his lead, La Salle did just that.
For a half on Friday, La Salle kept the future Georgia Bulldog in check but Prep quarterback Marquez McCray picked up the slack. McCray hurt La Salle with his legs and his arm but not until La Salle had struck first.
The Explorers have a good back of their own in Madden and the senior broke off a 55-yard touchdown run on La Salle’s second play of the game. The score stayed 7-0 through the end of the first quarter and the teams flipping ends. The Explorers looked primed to build on their lead, having just taken over after an attempted fake punt by the Prep backfired on a fumbled snap.
But La Salle couldn’t move the ball, set up for a short field goal and had the try blocked, the ball scooting in and out of players hands all the way to midfield.
“We played hard and gave them everything they could handle but they’re a very good football team,” La Salle coach John Steinmetz said. “I was proud of our guys and how they played.
“What hurt was the block and them getting the ball 50 yards away. What hurt was the block and how far it went.”
Then, the wind tunnel that is Northeast’s field became a factor. Two short punts, short because of the Prep’s pressure and a strong headwind, set up two quick Hawks TDs. The first was a 32-yard pass by McCray to Terrance Greene and on the next drive, a one-yard keeper by the junior quarterback.
La Salle’s third quarter was a costly one. The Explorers fumbled inside the Prep’s 15-yard line on their first two drives of the third quarter, thwarting two good chances to tie the game. It was more a matter of the players with the ball battling for more yards than anything.
After the second, the Prep made La Salle pay by driving 86 yards and capping it with a 12 yard McCray TD pass to Greene but the extra point was wide.
La Salle responded to that with a long drive that carried into the fourth quarter. Madden capped the drive with a 1-yard score to cut the lead to 20-14. The senior tailback, who was a huge part of the offense last year, became the guy this year when projected starting quarterback Isiah Jones injured his knee in preseason and was lost for the year.
Thomas LeMorte, a senior, stepped into the quarterback role and despite never starting before Week 1, did all he could. Friday, LeMorte threw for 90 yards and hung tough against an aggressive Prep front that hit him quite a few times.
“I gave it all I’ve got, I know Tom LeMorte, I know that Tre McNeill, I know everybody out there with me gave it all we’ve got,” Madden said. “It’s just a weird feeling right now. It doesn’t feel real.”
Again, momentum was short lived and St. Joe’s Prep came right back and padded the lead on a one-yard run by Swift. McCray then converted for two.
“For the young guys, they get to experience what it’s like when another team wants it,” Madden said. “A game like this, you can feel how much each guy wants it. It’s a learning experience for the young guys. Us older guys, we know what it’s like and it hurts when you put everything out there and don’t get what you want.”
The Hawks got a defensive stop, halting the Explorers on fourth down with 4:36 left. Swift then iced the game with a 42-yard touchdown run the next snap. La Salle’s last drive ended with an interception by LeMorte and the Prep ran out the clock for the win.
As the Explorers broke huddle for the last time, Madden and Jones shared an embrace. Jones, a junior, will be back next year to lead the returning players while Madden and his classmates go their separate ways.
Some will continue to play football, others will do different things but the times they shared together will bind them together forever. Madden said it’s like a brotherhood with those guys and he expects to keep in touch with all of them. For 48 minutes on Friday, he was able to give his all with them one last time.
“We took it to the fourth quarter and tried them, the coaches said let’s just take it to the fourth quarter and see what they’ve got,” Madden said. “They have a lot of great athletes on that team who wanted it a little bit more. That’s what it’s all about.”
“We’ve had a lot of injuries this year but no matter what, the kids have played hard,” Steinmetz said. “I don’t think the score reflects us here. We went for it a couple times and it got away from us.”
LA SALLE 7 0 0 7 – 14
ST. JOE’S PREP 0 14 6 15 – 35
L – Syaire Madden 55 run (Wells kick) 7:43
SJP – Marquez McCray 32 pass to Terrance Green (Tigano kick) 7:41
SJP – D’Andre Swift 1 run (Tigano kick) 5:03
SJP – McCray 12 pass to Greene (kick fail) 4:56
L – Madden 1 run (Wells kick) 10:17
SJP – Swift 1 run (McCray two-point pass) 8:00
SJP – Swift 42 run (Tigano kick) 4:36
Rushes-Yards 34-149 41-214
Passing 12-22-0-1 13-25-2-0
Passing Yards 90 160
Total Yards 239 374
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 2-1
Penalties-Yards 3-32 7-47
Punting 4-23.8 1-34
Rushing: Syaire Madden 28-159, Manny Quiles 2-(-9), Thomas LeMorte 4-(-1); SJP – D’Andrew Swift 19-176, Marquez McCray 15-68, Khari Jones 3-4, Richard Carr 4-(-34)
Passing: L – LeMorte 12-22-0-1-90, SJP – McCray 13-25-2-0-160
Receiving: L – Brett Mallee 2-8, Troy Holland 5-48, Liam Trainer 3-17, Madden 1-7, Quiles 1-10; SJP – Darryle Simmons 4-48, Khari Jones 1-0, Terrance Greene 7-85, Swift 1-27
Interceptions: SJP – Dawson DeJulius