Whitemarsh – A few minutes after Malvern Prep’s 45-21 loss Saturday evening to LaSalle, Friar head coach Dave Gueriera reflected on the defeat.
“This was a total [team] loss – it’s on the coaches, players, everybody,” said Gueriera. “We just got outplayed. La Salle’s a very good football team – they’ve got a very good offensive and defensive line, and they played their hearts out.”
La Salle senior quarterback Dan Solecki, who came off the bench last week to replace the injured Isaiah Jones, had an impressive debut as a starter, completing 23 of 31 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns.
“On defense, we wanted to keep [La Salle] in front of us and play the run well, [but] we didn’t know what they were coming out with – they had a new quarterback, and he (Solecki) had a great game.”
The defeat was a tough one for Malvern (1-1), ranked No. 3 in PA Prep Live’s latest Top 20. La Salle (2-1) was ranked right behind them (fourth).
Malvern kept pace with LaSalle through most of the first half, thanks to some big passing plays. Midway through the first quarter, with Malvern trailing 7-0, Friar quarterback Drew Gunther led his team on a 91-yard drive in 3 plays, hitting TyGee Leach for 35 yard down the right sideline, then hitting a wide-open Quincy Watson down the left sideline for a 57-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7-7.
“We were trying to stretch the field vertically,” said Gueriera of Malvern’s offensive game plan.
Trailing 14-7 in the second quarter, Malvern came back with a 61 yard scoring drive that culminated with Keith Maguire making a leaping catch in the right corner of the end zone despite tight coverage for a 13-yard touchdown reception that tied the score at 14-14 with 8:26 to go before halftime.
Just before halftime, on a crucial 3rd-and-13 situation, Solecki hit tight end Liam Trainer for a 24-yard touchdown in the left corner of the end zone that gave the Explorers the lead for good.
“We made some good plays in the first half, but also had opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of,” said Gueriera. “We shot ourselves in the foot with penalties. In the second half, [La Salle] put it on us, and we really didn’t respond.”
On the third play of the second half, Solecki hit Octavious Carter for a 55-yard gain, then followed it up with a 29-yard strike down the left sideline to Troy Holland that put the ball at the Malvern 1 yard line. Manny Quiles barreled into the end zone on the next play to make it 28-14.
Later in the third quarter, a Gunther pass was intercepted by defensive back Connor Curran and returned to the Malvern 32. Six plays later, Solecki found Holland open in the left side of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown pass to make it 35-14.
Malvern went three-and-out, then Solecki hit Brett Mallee for a 41-yard completion down to the Friar 13. Two plays later, Joey Burnham caught Solecki’s fourth touchdown pass of the game for a 42-14 Explorer lead.
Malvern kept plugging away, and O’Shaan Allison broke free for a 57-yard run up the middle early in the fourth quarter to set up an 8-yard touchdown pass from Gunther to Leach. It was Gunther’s third touchdown pass of the evening.
“We had some good individual performances tonight that we can build on,” said Gueriera. “Keith Maguire played his heart out at inside linebacker, O’Shaan Allison, Quincy Watson, Drew Gunther, I thought they played their hearts out, never quit, played hard to the end.”
La Salle kicker Daniel Karrash booted a 39-yard field goal with 6:32 left in the game to cap the day’s scoring.
Gueriera hopes that the Friars will learn from this defeat.
“The message for us is when adversity hits, we have to rise above it and not let it defeat us – that goes for the whole team,” said Gueriera.
“I think we might have had a bit of a letdown after the [27-7 win] at Villanova last week. We came in here on a high, and when your head gets swelled up, that can lead [to defeat].”
La Salle 45, Malvern Prep 21
Malvern Prep 7 7 0 7 — 21
La Salle 14 7 21 3 — 45
LS – Quiles 1 run (Karrash kick)
MP – Watson 57 pass from Gunther (Reilly kick)
LS – Holland 16 pass from Solecki (Karrash kick)
MP – Maguire 13 pass from Gunther (Reilly kick)
LS – Trainer 24 pass from Solecki (Karrash kick)
LS – Quiles 1 run (Karrash kick)
LS – Holland 4 pass from Solecki (Karrash kick)
LS – Burnham 12 pass from Solecki (Karrash kick)
MP – Leach 8 pass from Gunther (Reilly kick)
LS – Karrash 39 FG
First downs 14 19
Rushes-yards 27-93 36-138
Passing 17-33-1 23-31-0
Passing yards 253 332
Total yards 346 470
Punts 5-37 2-31
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-78 4-40
Rushing — MP: Allison 17-106; Gunther 4–35; McCahon 1–5; Reilly 1-9, Watson 4-18. LS: Quiles 15-55, 2 TDs; Solecki 11-35; Carter 3-14; Mallee 1–1, DeVose 4-23; Vespe 1-8; Tatlonghari 1-4.
Passing — MP: Gunther 16-31-1, 247 yards, 3 TDs. LS: Solecki 22-31-0, 332 yards, 4 TDs.
Receiving — MP: Maguire 4-38, 1 TD; Garrity 4-39; Leach 2-43, 1 TD; Watson 2-63, 1 TD; Allison 2-31; Boyle 2-12; Iacone 1-27. LS: Burnham 2-20, 1 TD; Trainer 3-37, 1 TD; Holland 6-122, 2 TDs; Mallee 4-51; Harrison 5-33; Carter 3-69.
Interceptions – LS: Curran.