A CLOSER LOOK: NO. 6 LA SALLE (3-1) VS. NO. 8 RYAN (4-0)
Despite winning its first four games by a combined score of 186-37, Archbishop Ryan has been knocked by some for a perceived soft schedule.
That makes Saturday afternoon's matchup against Catholic League Class AAAA rival and perennial power La Salle a possible statement game for the surging Raiders.
"This is a big game for us, obviously," Ryan fifth-year coach Frank McArdle said. "If we can play well against La Salle, I think people will know we're a good football team."
In a highly anticipated league opener, La Salle, 3-1 and ranked No. 6 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, and No. 8 Ryan (4-0) will square off at 1 p.m. at George Washington's Mickey Young Stadium.
"After what they've done so far, the Ryan kids believe in themselves," La Salle coach Drew Gordon said. "They're used to winning."
Here is a closer look at the contest.
Last year. In Week 5, with Jimmy Herron having a hand in three scores, the visiting Explorers blanked the Raiders, 31-0.
Drought. The Raiders' last victory in the head-to-head series was in 2006, by a 42-14 decision.
Position switch. On offense, La Salle's Zaire Franklin, who returned from a finger injury in last week's 23-17 win over Malvern Prep, has moved from tight end to left tackle.
"He's a tenacious blocker," Gordon said of the Syracuse commit and hard-hitting linebacker. "It's just a matter of him learning his blocking assignments."
Spark plug. Ryan tailback Samir Bullock, a transfer from Father Judge, has carried 71 times for an area-best 904 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Probable. Jordan Meachum, La Salle's go-to rusher, will likely play after missing the first three days of practice this week with an ankle injury.
Questionable. Ryan fullback Bobby McDevitt may sit out a third straight game due to a knee injury. If he does, Burkey Peterman will fill that spot.
Sidelined. La Salle's Matt McDermott, a 6-foo1, 245-pound sophomore center, is out with an ankle injury suffered against Malvern Prep. Senior Bill Frusco, moving over from guard, takes over for him.
Strong-armed QB. La Salle's Kyle Shurmur has connected on 62 of 113 passes for 985 yards and nine TDs. "He makes a lot of good reads," McArdle said.
Threats. The main targets for Ryan QB Mark Ostaszewski are wideouts Bobby Romano, Connor Golden, and Jason Dones.
Quotable. "La Salle rarely, if ever, beats themselves," McArdle said. "If you make mistakes against them, they're going to kill you."
Analysis. It's tempting to pick Bullock and the red-hot Raiders, but we expect the Explorers to emerge with a hard-fought victory.
Pick. La Salle, 23-20.