La Salle clinches top seed in playoffs

La Salle's Don Naseef, right, and Lansdale's Brendan Pinder attempt to win the ball. (Michael S. Wirtz / Staff Photographer )

The game was yet another testament to just how strong the Philadelphia Catholic League really is.

But more than that, it served as a taste of the dogfight that the Catholic League playoffs will be.

La Salle, needing a win or tie to clinch the top seed in the playoffs, had to scratch and claw its way to a 1-0 victory over Lansdale Catholic on a sloppy, drenched field Tuesday at Lansdale.

The win makes Lansdale the seventh seed in the 10-team playoffs, which start Friday.

"Lansdale Catholic is in seventh place," La Salle coach Bob Peffle said, "but they've played people tough all year. They're well coached. They're a good side, and you can see it.

"You just can't overlook any team in this league."

Lansdale (7-9 overall, 7-6 league) controlled play through most of the first half, and played a fairly even second half against the No. 1-ranked team in the state.

The lone goal was scored in the 64th minute on a direct kick at the top of the box by goalkeeper Leonardo Romero.

Romero, who said he won the privilege of taking penalty kicks during a contest in practice, was brought up after Lansdale was called for tripping Darius Madison just to the left of the box.

"I think our boys are just starting to realize how well they can play," Lansdale Catholic coach Joe Wilson said. "And I think we showed it today.

"We couldn't have picked a better time to play La Salle because La Salle did not want to lose this game. It would have changed where they were seeded in the playoffs. So they were fighting hard."

Though the Explorers weren't necessarily satisfied with the way they played, they were quick to recognize the importance of the result.

"We played pretty well from start to finish this season," said Romero, who also kept his team in the game with several big saves. "So this is a big accomplishment for all of us."

On regular-season results alone, La Salle (14-1-2, 11-1) should feel confident about the prospect of punching its ticket to the PIAA state tournament in Hershey.

But therein lies the irony of the Catholic League. It might be the toughest league in the state, with all of the fanfare and nationally ranked teams to boot. But only one team is awarded a spot in the PIAA Class AAA state tournament.

At least five of the league's teams have to be in the conversation when talking about the top teams in the area. But only the winner of the PCL championship game on Nov. 5 is granted a shot at the state title.

"I don't think that's right," Peffle said. "But it's a matter of numbers. And that's what they go by. . . . So I understand that's the way it's done. I don't like it, but I understand."

Last year's Catholic League champion, Father Judge, went on to become co-state champ after tying Central Dauphin in the championship game.

For Peffle, seeing a Catholic League team advance that far makes perfect sense.

"To get into the state level, you have to win the league, and believe me, that is hard to do," he said. "If you come out of this league and win the league championship, you've gone through the gauntlet."

La Salle   0 1 – 1

Lansdale Catholic   0 0 – 0

Goal: Leonardo Romero.

Saves: LS-Romero 8; LC-Cameron Takemori 8.


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