Mistakes hurt La Salle in loss to St. Joe’s Prep

PLYMOUTH MEETING >> In order to beat St. Joe’s Prep in football, an opponent must be talented and mistake-free.
There’s little argument La Salle has the talent to compete with the Prep but when the teams met Saturday afternoon at Plymouth-Whitemarsh, the Explorers were not mistake-free. A valiant charge in the second and third quarters wasn’t enough to overcome three turnovers and a handful of other miscues as the Hawks topped La Salle, 49-27.
Prep’s ground game and big-play potential led by De’Andre Swift and Benny Walls put the Explorers behind early while La Salle’s mistakes prevented them from completing their comeback bid.
“(Swift) and (Walls) are pretty special players,” La Salle coach John Steinmetz said. “Any time they get the ball in open space, it’s hard to defend.”
A fumble on La Salle’s second possession gave Prep the ball in excellent field position and the Hawks capitalized with a 27-yard pass from Kevin Shaw to Simmons Darryle for a touchdown four minutes in. La Salle compounded the issue when quarterback Chris Ferguson was picked off by Zach Goss near midfield, setting up another Prep touchdown drive. Shaw had three big completions on the drive to complement Swift’s running and back Joe Dumond capped it with a nine-yard run and two-point conversion to make it 14-0 with 2:46 left in the first quarter.
La Salle did march right back for a score, carried by back Syaire Madden. Madden picked up 51 of the 61 yards on the drive and scored on a 21-yard burst to make it 14-7 with 1:11 left in the quarter, but the good feelings wouldn’t last long.
Terrance Greene returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a Prep touchdown and it was suddenly 21-7 after one quarter.
A week ago, La Salle trailed Archbishop Wood 21-0 at halftime before rallying back in the second half in an eventual 27-24 defeat. Again trailing early, the Explorers’ boss wasn’t sure what was causing the slow starts.
“That’s a great question. We haven’t played four quarters of football,” Steinmetz said. “This week it was the second and third quarters we played well and not in the first and fourth. We need to fix that.”
It wasn’t all on La Salle either. The Prep’s defense was strong all game, with the front seven able to blow up a number of La Salle runs for no gain or negative yardage. Linebackers James Johnson and Nick Vandevere along with Dumond on the line were in one a number of those plays.
Johnson had the second interception for the Prep and said it was a team-wide defensive effort.
“We played together,” Johnson said. “We’ve talked about it since the beginning of the season, playing hand-in-hand, playing with each other, it helps.”
Prep pushed the lead to 28-7 when Walls broke loose for a 66-yard run down the left sideline early in the second quarter. La Salle started to come around after that score, with senior Charles Headen picking off Shaw a few possessions later.
The Explorers didn’t get a score there, but forced a fumble on the ensuing Prep possession with Anthony Piscopo recovring to set up Madden’s second TD. Three flags on St. Joe’s prep on the drive helped the Explorers move the ball, but it was Madden who powered in from four yards out to capitalize.
Prep took the 28-14 lead to the half, but La Salle was starting to open things up thanks to an offensive wrinkle. Sophomore Isaiah Jones, who also had an enormous game at safety, started taking snaps under center in an option-run formation. Jones ended up with 81 yards on the ground while Madden chalked up 91 hard yards of his own.
“(Jones) was a very good player,” Johnson said. “We adapted. We faced adversity there but we adapted to it.”
Jones came up with a huge interception on a tipped pass on the second play of the third quarter, setting up a short drive that Madden finished with a seven-yard score. La Salle had another promising drive going after forcing a three-and-out, but a high snap caused Jones to have to fall on the ball for a 19-yard loss, forcing the Explorers to settle for a 36-yard Matt Savage kick.
Still, they trailed just 28-24 with 4:48 left in the third quarter.
“That kind of opens our offense up a little bit,” Steinmetz said of Jones. “Troy Holland was a nice surprise today at receiver, both of those guys played really well.”
Holland had 80 yards on four catches while Nick Rinella had 40 on five grabs.
However, Prep wasn’t ready to concede the game. Shaw struck back when he hit Walls for a 68-yard catch-and-run, then Johnson picked off Ferguson on the following drive to set up a 13-yard run by Swift.
Swift, who ran for 175 yards, capped the scoring with a 39-yard run after La Salle turned the ball over on downs trying for a late score.
The teams may play again in the PCL Class AAAA playoffs, but if La Salle wants to change the outcome, they’ll have to keep improving over the next five weeks. Steinmetz said one area he wants to see improvement is with the defensive front and stopping the run.
“We’ve got to get better between now and then,” Steinmetz said. “We can’t stay where we’re at.”

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