No. 6 LA SALLE 23, NO. 11 MALVERN PREP 17
At this time next year, La Salle's Nick Buckley will be preparing to be a stalwart defender for Bellarmine University's lacrosse squad. For now, he's enjoying his last season as a rock-solid blocker in football.
In a driving rain Saturday night at Plymouth Whitemarsh, Buckley, with his all-out approach at fullback and tight end, helped the Explorers fight past upset-minded Malvern Prep, 23-17, in a sloppy nonleague contest.
The 6-foot, 190-pound senior visited Bellarmine, a Division I program located in Louisville, Ky., last weekend.
"The school is awesome," he said. "Louisville has a great atmosphere. I fell in love with the city. That made the decision pretty easy for me."
In football, Buckley's primary duty is clearing running room for halfbacks Jordan Meachum, Nick Rinella, and Jared Walls. He also, when opponents blitz, tries to protect quarterback Kyle Shurmur.
"I love playing football," the 18-year-old from Oreland said. "I've been playing since I was in the fourth grade. These guys are my best friends. We're like brothers."
In its final tune-up before beginning Catholic League Class AAAA action against Archbishop Ryan, La Salle, ranked No. 6 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, overcame a rash of penalties and two turnovers.
"A win is a win," Explorers boss Drew Gordon said. "It wasn't pretty, but we'll take it. There's not much else to say about a game like that."
La Salle (3-1) did not clinch the victory until it posted a safety (Malvern Prep's Alex Hornibrook was called for intentional grounding while in the end zone) with 1 minute, 12 seconds to play.
Shurmur completed 13 of 27 throws for 276 yards and a pair of first-half touchdowns. Meachum, who was sidelined in the late going by ankle and shoulder miseries, was on the receiving end of both scores.
Late in the third quarter, Shurmur connected with Jimmy Herron over the middle for a 74-yard TD that put the hosts in front, 21-17. Herron caught the ball at the Malvern Prep 46, then darted toward the left sideline.
The No. 11-ranked Friars (2-1) took a brief third-quarter lead, at 17-14, on Hornibrook's 28-yard TD pass to Troy Gallen. But they could not overcome four turnovers, including Herron's interception at the Malvern Prep 45 with 2:44 remaining.
La Salle's defense was energized by the return of linebacker Zaire Franklin, who sat out the last two games with a broken finger. The Syracuse commit registered three sacks.
Hornibrook, a southpaw, connected on 16 of 32 throws for 297 yards and two scores. Gallen, who will join Franklin at Delaware carried 16 times for 94 yards.
Before giving way to Rinella in the fourth quarter, Meachum netted 57 rushing yards on 13 attempts.
Malvern Prep 0 10 7 0-17
La Salle 7 7 7 2-23
LS: Jordan Meachum 30 pass from Kyle Shurmur (Matt Raczak kick)
MP: FG Jonathan Dollfus 27
MP: Andrew Pancoast 12 pass from Alex Hornibrook (Dollfus kick)
LS: Meachum 4 pass from Shurmur (Raczak kick)
MP: Troy Gallen 28 pass from Hornibrook (Dollfus kick)
LS: Jimmy Herron 74 pass from Shurmur (Raczak kick)
LS: Safety, intentional grounding in end zone