CHESTER >> La Salle dominated the first quarter of its Philadelphia League Catholic League matchup against hated rival St. Joseph’s Prep Friday.
The Explorers, No. 2 in Pa. Prep Live’s Top 20, forced the No. 1 Hawks to punt twice while they scored a touchdown and put together a 13-play drive deep into St. Joe’s territory.
The 13th play, however, was the game-changer. Prep’s DeJuan Dandridge grabbed an interception at his own three-yard line and took it back 70 yards to the La Salle 27. The Hawks scored a touchdown to tie the game three plays later and had all the momentum in what turned out to be their 21st consecutive win, a 28-14 victory to clinch a share of the PCL Red Division championship at Leslie C. Quick Stadium on the campus of Widener University.
Prep quarterback Marquez McCray, a Lansdale native, threw a 16-yard touchdown on a fade pass to Brandon Sanders three plays after the game’s only turnover to tie the game, 7-7.
“The interception changed the game,” McCray said. “The momentum shifted. It feels great to see DeJuan get that pick.”
La Salle had two more drives in the first half, both of which went into Prep territory, but ended on a turnover of downs and a punt.
The Hawks carried that momentum into the second half. The defense forced a La Salle three-and-out on the opening series and — after missing him on a flea flicker — McCray connected with James Cherry for 44 yards to set up a one-yard Kolbe Burrell touchdown to give the Prep its first lead, 14-7.
After another three-and-out by La Salle, Marques Mason broke free for a 51-yard touchdown on the third play of the drive to give St. Joe’s a 21-7 lead with 4:50 left in the third quarter.
“We just made some little adjustments,” McCray said of the second-half offensive explosion. “We felt in the first half we were just one block away or one more second away from scoring. In the second half I think that just opened up for us.”
“We didn’t play very good defense in the third quarter,” La Salle coach John Steinmetz said. “At the end of the day, it was 7-7 at halftime. (Prep) just came out and they played really well in the third quarter and we didn’t.”
The Prep defense forced yet another three-and-out, and McCray finished off the game early in the fourth quarter. He scrambled up the middle for a 45-yard touchdown with 11:14 left in the game to put the Hawks up, 28-7, and all but end any chance La Salle had at rallying.
“It feels good to get our second Catholic League championship in a row.” McCray, who received an offer from Sacred Heart earlier this week, said. “It feels real good.”
Both teams finish off their regular seasons next week. St. Joe’s will look to win the PCL Red Division outright against Archbishop Ryan and La Salle will face a tough test in Archbishop Wood.
Regardless of the outcome of those games, the Prep and La Salle will likely face off in a few weeks to determine which school will represent District 12 in the state playoffs.
“We’ll learn from today and see what we can do to get better.” Steinmetz said of the potential rematch.
La Salle quarterback Danny Solecki made some big-time plays Friday night. He completed 17-of-25 passes for 148 yards, a touchdown and that crucial interception. He also ran for the touchdown that gave the Explorers a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
In the first half, he completed a fourth-and-three pass to Manny Quiles to extend the touchdown drive and he converted two third-and-16 situations — once to Marvin Harrison and the other to Troy Holland.
In the second half, Solecki threw his touchdown — an eight-yard strike to Hollan to cut the Explorers deficit to 14, 28-14, with 5:38 to play.
“He played well again,” Steinmetz said. “He didn’t get a lot of time in the second half. I don’t think that was as much Dan as it was the front.”
St. Joe’s Prep 28, La Salle 14
La Salle 7 0 0 7 — 14
St. Joe’s Prep 0 7 14 7 — 28
L – Danny Solecki 3-yard run (Daniel Karrash kick) 6:29
S – Marquez McCray 16-yard pass to Brandon Sanders (Anthony Tigano kick) 10:10
S – Kolbe Burrell 1-yard run (Anthony Tigano kick) 7:33
S – Marques Mason 51-yard run (Anthony Tigano kick) 4:50
S – Marquez McCray 45-yard run (Anthony Tigano kick) 11:14
L – Danny Solecki 8-yard pass to Troy Holland (Daniel Karrash kick) 5:38
Passing: L: Danny Solecki 17-25-148-1-1. S: Marquez McCray 11-15-119-1-0.
Rushing: L: Danny Solecki 8-13-1, Troy Holland 1-5-0Joey Burnham 13-105-0, Manny Quiles 13-34-0. S: Marquez McCray 10-56-1, Kolbe Burrell 16-41-1, Marques Mason 4-53-1.
Receiving: L: Liam Trainer 3-23-0, Joey Burnham 2-25-0, Manny Quiles 3-20-0, Troy Holland 8-64-1, Marvin Harrison 1-16-0. S: James Cherry 5-53-0, Johnny Freeman 3-26-0, Brandon Sanders 2-30-1, Marques Mason 1-15-0.
Interceptions: S: DeJuan Dandridge.
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