ERDENHEIM >> La Salle football coach John Steinmetz had the perfect summation of his team’s effort Saturday night.
After a high-octane start, the Explorers weren’t interested into getting into a track meet. Instead they wanted to use their strength, both literal and physical, to impose their will against Haverford School.
La Salle did just that, tabulating over 500 rushing yards as it topped the Fords 58-28 to pick up its first win of the season at Springfield Township.
“It’s a weight room kind of night,” Steinmetz said. “The offense played really well, so I was real happy about that.”
In the preseason, Steinmetz said the Explorers’ offensive line was “coming along” and felt the unit would come along as one of the team’s best in due time. An injury to right tackle Leland Mersky in the season opener was a setback, but Mersky returned on Saturday and boosted a group that’s only gotten better since the first snap against Imhotep Charter.
Of course, it also helped that the team’s stockpile of running backs has gotten healthier too. Manny Quiles, who missed time with injury, looked in midseason form as he battered his way to 159 rushing yards and requiring multiple tacklers to bring down pretty much every time he touched the ball.
La Salle rushed 55 times for 505 yards as a team on Saturday.
“At the end of the first half, it looked like we wore them down a little bit,” Steinmetz said. “They had a bunch of two-way players, and it’s tough in these conditions. Our offensive line just played great, they’ve played really well all four weeks and improving each week.”
The start of the game was blink-and-miss-it. Haverford got an 80-yard touchdown on a Ben Gerber to Nate Whitaker screen pass on the first snap of the game. La Salle answered when freshman Sam Brown, on his first varsity touch, went 68 yards for a touchdown to tie it 7-7.
Haverford went up 14-7 on a Gerber pass to Bryce Broadus and the Fords had what looked like a promising start.
“We came over here and were prepared for a tough football game and came out and did some good things early,” Haverford School coach Mike Murphy said. “Physically, that’s a strong football team. Everybody’s going to see they were an 0-3 football team but you look at who they play and how they play, not a lot of guys go both ways up front.”
After three scores in less than six minutes, the game slowed down as La Salle shifted its focus more to its power running. Brown had only just gotten healthy this week, and he adds some serious firepower to a running back stable that includes Quiles, Jalen Devose, freshman Abdul Carter and senior Sean Daly.
Daly has been pressed into service as the Explorers’ quarterback the last two weeks due to an injury, but he rushed for 99 yards on the ground and had a couple huge runs late in the first half on a drive that ended with him scrambling three yards for a score.
The one guy in the backfield that Steinmetz singled out however, had just one rush for five yards.
“They were blocking, that was the biggest thing,” Steinmetz said. “Our running backs blocked hard for each other, especially Liam Tatlonghari. He did a great job tonight.”
Tatlonghari also had a pivotal role on the play of the game, throwing a 24-yard touchdown to Daly on the Explorers’ version of the “Philly Special” in the fourth quarter.
Devose (92 yards) and Carter (45 yards) joined Brown (80 yards), Quiles and Daly with rushing touchdowns. The line, which is anchored by senior co-captain Ronnie Ross along with seniors Mersky and Declan Tuffy, provided ample holes and their backs refused to go down on first contact.
La Salle took its first and only lead on a second quarter field goal to make it 17-14 and went into the half up 24-12 thanks to a two-minute drill drive engineered by Daly. Quiles had a punishing 51 yard touchdown run early in the third quarter and Devose ran in from nine out to put the Explorers up 38-14.
However, the Fords didn’t go away and got a nine-yard passing TD from Dante Perri to Broadus late in the third quarter and a 63-yard punt return from Jake Spencer on the first play of the fourth to get within 10 points.
“We challenged them at halftime, we felt like it was a critical point for us as a football team,” Murphy said. “The way we responded to that was good, but I felt like they just wore us down as the night went on.
“The effort needs to remain the same. Our defense was probably on the field like three-quarters of the game, so we have to do a better job of sustaining drives and we have to tackle better.”
La Salle heads into the biggest game on its schedule next when it meets St. Joe’s Prep at Widener on Sept. 28 after a bye week. An 0-4 start wouldn’t have derailed what the Explorers hope to do this season, but there was an extra bit of energy from the players as they left the stadium on Saturday.
“Our kids are resilient, they’ve been hanging in there and working hard even at 0-3,” Steinmetz said. “We’ve been working really hard at practice and I’m really happy for them to get rewarded with a ‘W’ as a result of that.”
LA SALLE 7 17 10 20 – 58
HAVERFORD SCHOOL 14 0 7 7 -28
H – Ben Gerber 80 pass to Nate Whitaker (Chris Clark kick) 11:45
L – Sam Brown 68 run (Jake Gandolfo kick) 11:19
H – Gerber 14 pass to Bryce Broadus (Clark kick) 6:44
L – Manny Quiles 15 run (Gandolfo kick) 11:55
L – Jake Gandolfo 24 kick 4:54
L – Sean Daly 3 run (Gandolfo kick) 4.6
L – Quiles 51 run (Gandolfo kick) 10:03
L – Jale Devose 9 run (Gandolfo kick) 4:27
H – Dante Perri 9 pass to Broadus (Clark kick) 2:21
H – Jake Spencer 63 punt return (Clark kick) 11:42
L – Liam Tatlonghari 24 pass to Daly (Gandolfo kick) 7:26
L – Abdul Carter 8 run (kick miss) 6:39
L – TJ Meachum 39 interception return (Gandolfo kick) 6:13
First Downs 21 14
Rushes-Yards 55-505 19-66
Passing 6-10-1-0 11-25-3-4
Passing Yards 45 210
Total Yards 550 276
Penalties-Yards 8-75 2-10
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Rushing: L – Manny Quiles 18-159, Sam Brown 5-80, Abdul Carter 4-45, Sean Daly 10-99, Jalen Devose 10-92, Matt Bowes 2-8, Timothy Mehlman 2-9, Liam Tatlonghari 1-5, Byron Hopkins 3-8; H – Daiyann Hawkins 6-12, Ben Gerber 4-27, Nate Watkins 3-8, Logan Keller 3-3, Mekhi Ajose-Williamson 3-16
Passing: L – Sean Daly 5-9-0-0-21, Liam Tatlonghari 1-1-1-0-24; H – Ben Gerber 5-9-2-1-129, Dante Perri 6-16-1-3-81
Receiving: L – Khalil Diarrah 2-10, Manny Quiles 1-9, Luke Hardy 1-4, Sam Brown 1-(-2), Sean Daly 1-24; H – Nate Watkins 4-108, Chris Sims 1-7, Bryce Broadus 2-37, Daiyann Hawkins 2-5, Dan Whaley 1-19
Interceptions: L – TJ Meachum 2, Abdul Carter, Tyson Goldstein
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