A Closer Look: No. 4 La Salle vs. No. 3 St. Joe's Prep

Blog Image 924249 - O'Brien
Sophomore running back Nick Rinella and La Salle (8-2) take on St. Joseph's Prep (7-2) int he Catholic League Class AAAA championship game at 7 p.m. Friday at Plymouth Whitemarsh. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff)


La Salle aims to stretch its impressive run of consecutive Catholic League titles to six. St. Joseph's Prep, motivated by the heartbreak of last year's title-game loss to the Explorers, looks to claim its first crown since 2005.

The archrivals will battle for the Class AAAA championship - and the right to play for top District 12 honors - at 7 p.m. Friday before what is sure to be a capacity-plus crowd at Plymouth Whitemarsh.

In an Oct. 11 meeting, the Prep built a 28-7 halftime advantage and then held on for a 35-28 victory.

Here is a closer look at the highly anticipated final.

Twitter. Follow @ozoneinq for live updates.

Projected starters. Go to www.philly.com/philly/blogs/rick-obrien/231033256.html

Weather. A clear, 43-degree night is forecast for Friday.

Records. La Salle, ranked No. 4 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, is 8-2 overall; No. 3-ranked Prep is 7-2.

Coaches. La Salle's Drew Gordon is 83-22 (.790 winning percentage) in eight seasons; Gabe Infante is 28-14 (.667) in four years at the Prep.

History. The Hawks lead the overall series, 43-35-5.

Rematch. In last year's final at PW, La Salle prevailed in overtime, 28-27, on a 5-yard slant pass. The Prep scored first in the extra session, but missed the point-after kick.

Round 1. In this season's first clash, the Explorers, despite trailing by 35-14 at the start of the fourth quarter, had a chance to even things in the final minute. The Hawks made a clinching interception near midfield.

Fast tempo. The Prep's no-huddle, spread offense averages 30.4 points. It is spurred by quarterback Chris Martin, halfbacks Olamide Zaccheaus and Vince Moffett, and handyman John Reid.

Peaking. La Salle has won three straight games by a combined score of 112-26. Junior QB Kyle Shurmur threw for 258 yards and five touchdowns in last week's 35-0 romp over Father Judge.

Dangerous rookie. In the first meeting, Hawks freshman De'Andre Swift turned two screen passes into scores of 31 and 22 yards.

New wrinkle. Look for La Salle's Jimmy Herron, a speedy receiver, to sometimes line up at QB and direct a read-option play.

Key role. La Salle's defensive line, featuring end Ryan Coonahan and tackle Keith Wagner, must keep Martin and company from finding open space.

Top targets. Shurmur spreads the ball among Herron and fellow wideouts Charles Headen and Levi Hardy. Jordan Meachum and Nick Rinella are threats out of the backfield.

Analysis. Shurmur's red-hot arm keeps it close, but we expect the Hawks, with Martin's experience and overall savvy playing a big part, to end the Explorers' five-year reign.

Pick. Prep, 28-23.

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