Rinella, defense help La Salle top Judge

La Salle's Nick Rinella, left, intercepts a pass intended for La Salle's Justin Gies, center, and P.J. Smith, right in the second quarter of play in the Catholic League AAA Semifinal game Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015 in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

Father Judge senior Yeedee Thaenrat is one of the fastest and most dynamic running backs in Philadelphia.

La Salle's Nick Rinella still tracked him down from behind.

Rinella made perhaps the game's two biggest defensive plays in the Explorers' 27-6 Catholic League Class AAAA semifinal win against Father Judge

Now La Salle (6-3, 2-1) will have a championship date with two-time defending champion St. Joseph's Prep.

"I've never beaten the Prep," said Rinella, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound running back and defensive back. "It would really be awesome to go out and beat the Prep, finally. It'll be a hard work week for sure."

Rinella helped secure that opportunity on the second play from scrimmage Saturday at Plymouth-Whitemarsh.

After Thaenrat busted free for 64 yards, Rinella caught and then dragged the Judge star down at the La Salle 5-yard line.

"At first, I was catching him, but then it seemed like he was pulling away," Rinella said. "I thought I wasn't going to get him, but I caught back up and I got him."

The Explorers eventually forced a turnover on downs by stopping Judge on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line.

Judge (5-5, 1-2) rebounded after Savion Perez recovered a fumble, leading to Rob King's hitting Tom Penko for 6 yards and an early 6-0 lead.

Rinella tied the game later with his own 6-yard score.

He added a leaping interception at La Salle's 3-yard line that likely saved more points.

Thaenrat left in the second quarter with an injured ankle and the Explorers never looked back. He finished with 89 yards on eight carries.

La Salle's Syaire Madden had 136 rushing yards and a touchdown. Rinella added 82 yards on the ground and five catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.

Chris Ferguson passed for 93 yards and two touchdowns for La Salle. He also ran for a touchdown.

Father Judge 6 0 0 0 - 6

La Salle 0 13 14 0 - 27

J: Tom Penko 6 pass from Rob King (kick failed)

L: Nick Rinella 6 run (kick failed)

L: Winston Eubanks 20 pass from Chris Ferguson (Matt Savage kick)

L: Isaiah Jones 8 run (Savage kick)

L: Ferguson 1 run (Savage kick)

cartera@phillynews.com

@AceCarterINQ