Defensive front, Daly’s running snap La Salle’s losing streak against Archbishop Wood

LOWER GWYNEDD >> The term La Salle’s defensive line uses for touchdowns in quite ironic.

Any time a member of the Explorers’s defensive front gets into the end zone, they gleefully refer to it as a “fat man touchdown” and eagerly await the steak dinner that comes as a reward for the score. The irony comes from the fact that La Salle’s defensive ends and tackles really aren’t all that fat.

A “fat man touchdown” from Paul Jennings was the capper after three rushing touchdowns from Gavin Daly propelled La Salle to a 27-0 win over Archbishop Wood on Saturday at Wissahickon High School.

“Our defensive line coach, Alex Smith, it’s all his idea but we’re a pretty athletic group so it is what it is,” Jennings said. “We game-planned for it all week in practice to set the tone early up front, that’s where the game is won and it’s been a recurring theme all year.”

La Salle’s victory snapped a five-year losing streak to the Vikings which included a one-point overtime setback last season. With no games scheduled past this weekend, the Explorers only had more motivation to reverse the trend in the rivalry.

While the Vikings were playing shorthanded — their top two running backs in Kaelin Costello and Ricardo Delgado were sidelined with injuries — they were able to move the ball on their first possession. An untimely flag stalled their momentum and La Salle’s defense was able to get the stop and from there, the Explorers’ defense really didn’t give up much more.

“One of the things that’s shown all year is that we’re in really good shape,” La Salle coach John Steinmetz said. “We’ve practiced a lot and I think we wore them down a bit in the second half. They played really well today, I think they were pretty jacked up all week.”

Steinmetz noted the leadership of the three seniors on the defensive line in Jennings, Tim Barrett and Pat Troy, who teamed with sophomore Darold Denghoe to bottle up Wood’s running game and allowed linebackers Abdul Carter, Chris Thompson and Sean McFadden to make plays.

One of the few miscues La Salle had all afternoon came when the Explorers lost a fumble on a punt return, gifting Wood a first down on the La Salle 22 in the third quarter with the score just 7-0. Instead, the Explorers defense got the ball right back on the next snap when Troy broke through the line, dislodging the ball and allowing McFadden to scoop up the recovery.

“We’ve been playing together since grade school, so we have that bond and we just trust each other,” Troy said. “We put trust in each other and just try to ball out. It’s a huge momentum boost, it’s what we needed in this game.”

Archbishop Wood coach Matt Walp felt the quick giveaway was a tide-turning moment.

“We’re right there and we give the ball right back, that changed the momentum quite a bit,” Walp said. “I just think our guys were starting to get gassed and compound that with the injuries, the odds are against you. It’s an uphill battle but you also take your hat off to La Salle, they did a good job up front.”

Troy and Denghoe each recorded a sack on Saturday while the line’s pressure allowed the linebackers to make numerous tackles and the Explorers’ secondary played well to limit Wood’s quick wideouts.

The Vikings battled, with senior Andrew Minners making his season debut and starting at running back while quarterback Max Keller, who was also banged up in last week’s loss to St. Joe’s Prep, did all he could for his team. Defensively, end Rob Jackson had a couple tackles for loss and corner Andrew McHugh had an interception and several pass break-ups.

Saturday wasn’t the end of the line for Wood, which has three more games on the schedule.

“This year, with all the uncertainty and everything that’s going on, we’re out playing football,” Walp said. “You have to take the positives out of it, as hard as it when you’re on the opposite end of 27-0. We’ll go back to work, get the bodies right and get after it again next week.”

La Salle iced the game with 3:16 to go when a bad snap for Wood turned into a short scoop-and-score for Jennings.

“I was super-excited, that was on the top of our list, getting a defensive touchdown,” Troy said. “We call that a ‘fat man touchdown’ and we’re going to get a steak dinner out of that, so it was an awesome way to end the game. I’m really happy for Paul.”

Steinmetz said he wants to get his team at least one more game and added he had several calls from teams looking to play this weekend. If another contest doesn’t emerge, the Explorers know they went out on the right note Saturday.

As they had all season, La Salle lined up without a left guard on its first offensive play with Archbishop Wood declining the delay of game penalty. Pregame, Walp and the Wood captains presented La Salle with a gift and donation to the Isaiah Turner Foundation in memory of the La Salle senior who passed away on Sept. 4.

“It’s a big game every time we play these guys and the fact we hadn’t gotten them in a few years pushed us harder to come out and execute,” Jennings said. “The one thing that first comes to mind with this group is how we handled adversity. From looking like we wouldn’t have a season to losing one of our brothers, Isaiah, I’m really proud of the way our group handled it.”

DALY DOUBLE, PLUS ONE >> Gavin Daly had to stop and think about the last time he ever scored three rushing touchdowns.

The Explorers’ senior quarterback worked hard to improve as a passer this year, but prior to Saturday’s game, his coaches told him to be ready to run. Daly responded with a big day, rushing for 114 yards on 10 carries to go with the trio of TDs.

“I was excited because I love running the ball,” Daly said. “It was awesome, especially doing it with these guys.”

Daly felt the offensive line stepped up on Saturday after what the group felt was a somewhat off day last week against Roman Catholic. The senior broke a 49-yard run on the first play of the second quarter to give La Salle a 7-0 lead.

He then scored on back-to-back offensive plays in the fourth quarter, rushing in from 16 yards then from 18 out to push the lead to three scores.

“That quarterback, they caught us and started hitting us with that,” Walp said. “We didn’t adjust and he was running that stretch play or pulling it down and taking off and we didn’t account for it.”

Junior Sam Brown added 92 yards on the ground for a La Salle offense that rushed for 229 yards.

“We all wanted to get as many yards as we could,” Daly said. “The offensive line, the receivers, tight ends and running backs were all there to block for me, so I wanted to run hard for them.”

La Salle 27, Archbishop Wood 0
La Salle 0 7 0 20 – 27
Archbishop Wood 0 0 0 0 – 0
Scoring Plays
2nd Quarter
L – Gavin Daly 49 run (Santiago Sturla kick) 11:49
4th Quarter
L – Daly 16 run (Sturla kick) 9:50
L – Daly 18 run (Sturla kick) 8:05
L – Paul Jenning 2 fumble return (kick miss) 3:16
Team Stats
First Downs 16 6
Rushes-Yards 35-229 33-46
Passing 4-16-0-1 6-13-0-0
Passing Yards 28 58
Total Yards 257 104
Penalties-Yards 3-30 3-25
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-2
Individual Stats
Rushing: L – Sam Brown 15-92, Timothy Mehlmann 3-10, Gavin Daly 10-114, Dominic Martin 3-8, Justin Machita 1-5; AW – Andrew Minners 17-46, Shane Collier 3-3, Max Keller 5-3, Trey Holsman 1-(-12), Cardel Pigford 2-6, Luke Cantwell 2-7, Ryan Woertz 1-(-7)
Passing: L – Daly 4-16-0-1-28; AW – Keller 5-10-50, Holsman 0-1-0-0-0, Mekhi Warton 1-2-0-0-8
Receiving: L – Machita 2-11, Mehlmann 2-17; AW – Andrew McHugh 2-15, Pigford 1-23, David Armstrong 1-13, Minners 1-(-1), Cantwell 1-8
Interceptions: AW – McHugh

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