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Big 2nd quarter propels La Salle to shutout win over Father Judge

La Salle's Brett Mallee tries to turn the corner as Father Judge’s Tareff Howell stretches for the tackle during their game at Plymouth Whitemarsh on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

WHITEMARSH >> Joey Burnham was wearing his performance.

Sweat still pouring down from underneath his headband, pooling with a heavy dose of eye black along with churned-up pellets from the Plymouth Whitemarsh turf, La Salle’s power runner spoke of the play in which he refused to go down.

“That was pretty nice. There was a point in which I was completely stopped,” Burnham said. “(Guard) Garrett Zobel just started pushing me and I kept my feet moving forward, just kept moving.”

Burnham broke free for a 17-yard touchdown, the Explorers scored on three straight second-quarter possessions, and La Salle — the No. 2 team in this week’s Pa. Prep Live Top 20 — pulled away to a 34-0 shutout over Father Judge Friday night.

“It was a good win. They’re a good team,” Burnham said of their Philadelphia Catholic League Red Division rival. “We just grinded it out. We got it done and just grinded it out, made some plays.”

La Salle’s Troy Holland tries to free himself of Father Judge’s Mark Maguire during their game at Plymouth Whitemarsh on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

The victory improved the Explorers to a perfect 3-0 in the division and 5-1 overall.

“It’s good, especially that 3-0 in the division,” Burnham said. “We just gotta carry that momentum into our bye week and then carry that into Roman (on Oct. 13) and then we’ll figure out what we gotta do to beat (Archbishop) Wood and (St. Joe’s) Prep.”

Father Judge, which dropped to 0-2 in PCL Red and 2-4 overall, started off well when — on the third play from scrimmage — Tim Weldon swept right for 52 yards, moving the ball all the way down to the La Salle 18.

But one play later, outside linebacker Liam Trainer went up and snagged an interception on a pass over the middle by quarterback Shane Dooley, ending the threat.

La Salle would punt on its first series but on its second, quarterback Danny Solecki hit Troy Holland on an out-and-up down the right sideline for a 29-yard score and a 7-0 Explorer lead.

And then La Salle took the game over.

La Salle’s Liam Trainer runs for yardage after an interception during the Explorers’ game against Father Judge at Plymouth Whitemarsh on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Brett Mallee scored on a 14-yard sweep to the left, doubling the margin to 14-0 early in the second quarter, Burnham followed with his TD moments later, and the half ended with a 32-yard field goal by Dan Karrash splitting the uprights as time expired, making it 24-0 at the half.

The Explorers added a 35-yard field goal by Karrash early in the fourth quarter and with the game well in hand, La Salle could utilize some reserves, with Brad Vespe scoring on a five-yard burst to cap things off.

“The defense played really well and I thought the offense was methodical about what they were doing,” said coach John Steinmetz, who saw his team dominate the ground game, 205-68. “The kids played hard. No. 44 for Father Judge (linebacker Mark Maguire) is ‘wow,’ a heck of a player. We couldn’t block him all night.

“What we talk about is trying to continue our improvement. We wanna try to get a little bit better. We have some big games coming up down the road that we gotta get better for. St. Joe’s and Wood are really good football teams so there’s still some things we gotta work on to be able to beat squads of that caliber.”

Father Judge’s Katob Joseph looks for running room during the Crusaders’ game against La Salle at Plymouth Whitemarsh on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Octavious Carter had 61 yards rushing for La Salle, Solecki completed 16 of 25 passes for 182 yards and Holland caught five of those balls for 58 yards. Marvin Harrison Jr., son of the NFL Hall of Famer, fittingly caught a 29-yard deep ball down the left sideline, setting up La Salle’s second touchdown.

Judge got 108 yards rushing from Weldon and 11-of-22 passing from Dooley (198 yds, interception), but a La Salle pass rush that produced eight sacks and a minus-51 yards rushing night for Dooley, along with jarring two fumbles loose, made it impossible for the visitors to sustain any drives.

The Explorers did have a turnover of their own — an interception by Katob Joseph — and were sluggish in spots, but a big second quarter and Burnham’s bullish run broke the game open for good.

“That was a good quarter for us,” Burnham said. “The first quarter looked really bad — we only put up seven, but we were able to regroup as a team. We just kept moving forward.”

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