St. Joseph’s Prep overpowers La Salle in PCL Class AAAA championship

PHILADELPHIA — It is a deadly combination.

Any day of the week the dynamic duo of Kyle Shurmur and Jimmy Herron can rescue the La Salle football team from the largest holes. Their quick-strike ability helped the Explorers ease into the Philadelphia Catholic League Class AAAA championship game. However, a familiar foe was there waiting at Northeast High, ready to cause havoc on Herron and his partner in crime.

Concentration centered around press coverage on Shurmur’s go-to target and with him invisible for the majority of the first half on offense, the Hawks soared to a commanding lead and held on for a 46-13 victory,

“I thought we could handle them,’ Explorers coach Drew Gordon said. “We couldn’t.’\

By the time the senior wide receiver brought in his first reception of the evening with four minutes remaining in the second half, Prep and senior running back Olamide Zaccheaus had left their mark. Zaccheaus bursted through the typically stout Explorer (8-3 overall) defense to the tune of three touchdowns — two from over 35 yards out. Zaccheaus finished with 10 carries for 134 rushing yards as the ground game could not be stopped. Jimmy Bell added 88 yards in mop-up duty and the Hawks had 285 total rushing yards to the Explorers 42 yards.

“We were going to come out and run our plays,’ Herron said. “I don’t know what happen. Sometimes it goes your way sometimes it doesn’t.’

While Herron has two of his five grabs — for 44 yards — in the first half, he was not completely stopped. The Duke baseball commit showed up early on special teams, opening the scoring with a 60-yard punt return. He also made a statement on defense, taking a Jack Clements interception into the end zone. Herron accounted for both of La Salle’s first half scores.

“That’s our normal punt return,’ Heron said. “It’s a good punt return. I had a lot of blocks. I thought we had a shot at them. I thought we were evenly matched, but they played a good game tonight.’

With Herron being blanketed by the Prep secondary consisting of Justin Monatague, John Reid, D’Andre Swift and Zaccheaus, Shurmur had to look elsewhere for opportunity. Shurmur, the Vanderbilt commit, did his best but the Hawks were better on Friday night. They batted balls down, came up with one interception, three fumbles — two lost — and kept the Explorers offense under 150 total yards. Shurmur finished 11-for-23 for 80 yards and zero touchdowns. He was sacked five times.

“We prepared for the pressure and could not handle it,’ Gordon said. “There are no excuses. They are a better team.’

The unfamiliar double-digit deficit forced the Explorers to extend themselves too far, and fight for that extra yard when it was not there. Shurmur forced the ball into tight coverage and fumbled during an attempt to escape pressure. The Hawks took advantage of the short field, whether it was off turnovers or big special team kick and punt returns, the entire night.

“I have no clue,’ Gordon said. “Practice was fine, there was about 10 big plays. You have to play the whole game and we did not.’

Every season it seems the PCL AAAA championship game is represented by two teams with realistic state title goals. However, only one team was able to leave Charles Martin Memorial Stadium with the state title hopes more than dream. The Explorers are going to have trouble sleeping tonight. Their dreams, sadly, are over.

“We never got into a groove,’ Herron said. “I am going to miss playing with these guys. It was a fun year.’

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