ST. JOSEPH'S PREP 30, LA SALLE 20
After leaving North Jersey four years ago and taking over as head coach at St. Joseph's Prep, Gabe Infante began the "process" of building a consistent winner.
His dedication and one-game-at-a-time approach paid off Friday night, as the Hawks topped archrival La Salle, 30-20, and earned the Catholic League Class AAAA crown before an overflow crowd at Plymouth Whitemarsh.
"I'm proud of everyone who believed in us, believed in the mission," Infante said after presenting Prep athletic director Jim Murray with the championship plaque. "It's a great thing to enjoy the fruits of your labor."
The Hawks claimed their first league title since 2005. In doing so, they ended La Salle's five-year reign and avenged last season's title-game loss to the Explorers.
"This win was for the seniors from last year's team," Prep junior John Reid said. "I'm still in touch with all of them. They're like my brothers. We came into this game with those guys in mind."
Next weekend, at a site and time to be determined, the Prep (8-2) will play for the District 12 Class AAAA crown against the winner of Saturday's Public League final between George Washington and Frankford.
A big question for the Hawks moving forward is the health of senior quarterback Chris Martin, who suffered a left-knee injury early in the fourth quarter against La Salle. He left PW on crutches.
"My knee buckled," the 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior said. "I really don't know what happened. I'll have to get it checked out."
Martin, a second-year starter, completed 8 of 12 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns. "Chris made some big throws for us tonight," Infante said.
Senior wideout Jawan McAllister, who has committed to play baseball at Pittsburgh, hauled in scoring passes of 30 and 57 yards.
"He considered giving up football after his sophomore year," Infante said. "We convinced him to stay. To see him contribute like that in a big game, it's a pretty cool thing."
The clincher early in the fourth quarter was junior halfback Olamide Zaccheaus' 12-yard TD burst out of the wildcat formation. That put the Hawks ahead, 30-7.
A Prep defense that held La Salle (8-3) to one score through three quarters was headed by linemen Jake Strain and Joe DuMond, linebackers Ryan McNulty and Dillon DeIuliis, and backs Reid and Vince Moffett.
Early in the second quarter, DeIuliis blocked a punt, and McAllister recovered at the La Salle 9. The Hawks cashed in on the next play, with Martin finding Reid over the middle. A missed extra-point kick left it at 16-7.
"He's a once-in-a-lifetime player," Infante said of Reid, who later made a one-handed interception. "What makes him great is his competitive spirit."
For the Explorers, Kyle Shurmur hit on 22 of 36 throws for 223 yards and a score. Fellow junior Jordan Meachum carried 17 times for 106 yards.
La Salle 7 0 0 13-20
St. Joseph's Prep 10 6 7 7-30
SJP: FG Pat Walsh 25
SJP: Jawan McAllister 30 pass from Chris Martin (Walsh kick)
LS: Kyle Shurmur 1 run (Matt Raczak kick)
SJP: John Reid 9 pass from Martin (kick failed)
SJP: McAllister 57 pass from Martin (Walsh kick)
SJP: Olamide Zaccheaus 12 run (Walsh kick)
LS: Nick Rinella 2 run (Raczak kick)
LS: Jimmy Herron 2 pass from Shurmur (run failed)