La Salle credits 2015 success to senior Nick Rinella

PHILADELPHIA >> There’s a lot that’s going to be associated with La Salle’s 2015 football season.

A Philadelphia Catholic League championship, the school’s first since 2012, is one. The District 12 championship win over Simon Gratz is another.

Among the less positive things is going to be the phantom pass interference call that helped lead Parkland to a win over the Explorers in the state quarterfinals, but that shouldn’t overshadow what they accomplished.

And there are quite a few that can take responsibility for the team’s stellar season — the tutelage of coach John Steinmetz in his first season at the helm, or the play of quarterback Chris Ferguson could be cited.

But both of those guys will tell you that one of the players who was really key to the Explorers’ run was senior wide receiver Nick Rinella.

The Collegeville native doesn’t stand out physically — the 5-feet-9-inches and 190 pounds that he’s given on the roster is generous, and doesn’t always fill out the stat sheet, but without him, the Explorers would be nowhere close to where they finished on the season.

Off the field, “he’s quiet,” Steinmetz said. “He just does his thing, and gets his job done. Just takes care of business.”

Did he ever.

On Saturday, he hauled in four passes for 70 yards and a score and ran for another 15 on one carry, there for Ferguson whenever he needed a pass to get hauled in. On defense is where he really shined — he held Temple-bound gargantuan Kenny Yeboah (an easy 6-feet-5-inches and 200 or more pounds) to a pedestrian 60 yards, beat out Yeboah on a jump ball for a pick on Parkland’s first play, batted back-to-back passes away to force a crucial fourth down, and registered a 10-yard sack on a key third down in the fourth quarter.

All of this came just two weeks after he single-handedly (literally, it was a one-handed catch) led the Explorers to the PCL title with a touchdown grab in the final minute against St. Joe’s Prep. Last week, he played a huge role, yet again, in La Salle’s win for the city title over Simon Gratz. Go back and read the recap — his name is littered throughout.

“Nick is awesome,” Steinmetz said. “Boy, he played great again today. He’s a really good athlete. We’re really going to miss him.”

“Defense, offense, he played unbelievably,” Ferguson said. “He gave it his all and left it out on the field. He was a big factor for us this year.”

He intends to play in college next year, probably at a lower-level Division I school. He says that he’s looking toward Dayton, Lehigh, Marist, Stetson, or Duquesne, but he’s not quite done soaking in the light of his last prep go-round.

“This season means the world to us,” he said. “There was stuff saying that we were only going to win three games.”

For the record, the Explorers won eight.

“To come out and win the Catholic League, and districts,” he went on, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

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