La Salle's Sean Coleman neatly summed up Friday night's Catholic League Class AAAA championship game vs. Roman Catholic.
"It was a game of mistakes," the speedy junior receiver and safety said. "They made more than we did. That was the difference."
Though its offense sputtered mightily, the Explorers, aided by six turnovers, scratched out a 16-6 victory at Northeast High and earned their fourth consecutive league title.
"Defense wins championships," La Salle coach Drew Gordon matter-of-factly said afterward.
The Cahillites, looking to avenge a 23-21 defeat in the regular season, lost four of their six fumbles. They were also hurt by two second-half interceptions.
The Explorers became the fourth Catholic League school to claim at least four consecutive titles, joining West Catholic (2006-11, 1943-46), Archbishop Ryan (1990-93), and North Catholic (1934-37).
"It's great," Gordon said. "If someone had told me we were going to win four in a row when I got here, I would have said they were crazy. You don't believe it's something that can happen."
Next weekend, at a site and time to be determined, La Salle (10-1) will vie for top District 12 honors against the winner of Saturday's Public League final between George Washington (7-2) and Frankford (7-2).
With Roman shutting down tailback Tim Wade, who was coming off a 300-yard rushing effort against Father Judge, La Salle went to the air for both of its touchdowns.
Late in the first quarter, Coleman gained several steps on a defender and hauled in a 61-yard scoring pass from Matt Magarity. Outside of that play, the Explorers managed only 20 yards rushing and 8 passing in the first half.
"We didn't get it done up front tonight," Gordon said. "We weren't able to sustain anything on offense or control the clock."
Thanks again to Coleman's quick feet, La Salle went ahead, 13-0, early in the third quarter. This time, again leaving a defender in his dust, the lacrosse standout scored on a 27-yard reception.
"The player covering me was jumping the out route, so I knew I could beat him inside," Coleman said.
The Cahillites (7-4) responded to Coleman's second score with a 12-play, 72-yard drive. William Fuller's 9-yard TD catch, on a left-side fade toss from Chris Cruz, made it 13-6.
Cruz, filling in again for injured starter Mike Keir (nerve issues in throwing arm), hit on 11 of 24 throws for 109 yards. Marcus Kelly rushed 20 times for 82 yards.
After freshman Jimmy Herron picked off Cruz and returned the ball 48 yards to the Roman 20, Ryan Winslow's 25-yard field goal clinched it with 3 minutes, 32 seconds to play. He had missed first-half tries of 32 and 21 yards.
Magarity connected on only 3 of 12 passes for 96 yards. Wade was held to 44 yards on 20 rushes.
Roman Catholic 0 0 6 0 – 6
La Salle 0 7 6 3 – 16
LS: Coleman 61 pass from Magarity (Winslow kick)
LS: Coleman 27 pass from Magarity (kick blocked)
RC: Fuller 9 pass from Cruz (kick blocked)
LS: FG Winslow 25