La Salle win is all in the family
Rather than cry uncle, La Salle High's football team relied upon nephews.
Good bloodlines don't always guarantee athletic success, but Steve Sinnott and Mike Bennett have found them to be beneficial.
Sinnott, a defensive end, and Bennett, the kicker/punter, emerged as first-magnitude heroes Saturday in Bethlehem as the Explorers bested Easton, 17-14, in a PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinal.
Their relatives had seen it all before. They'd also had an easier time of seeing it, unless those back-in-the-day games were somehow also played in driving snowstorms that, little by little, covered the field with white stuff.
Flakes the size of dimes dominated the first half. The snow that fell beyond intermission was wetter, and made for trickier footing, but by the end of the game, all guys wearing white found it difficult to leave the playing field. Some even grouped for joyous, across-the-turf runs, which they capped with baseball-type slides.
Hey, who wants to let go of a lifetime experience?
"That was great! I loved it! That was so much fun!" Sinnott said. "If we'd lost? I'd be cold and upset."
In 1968, Sinnott's uncle, Jim Sinnott, now an assistant at Central High, was a starting lineman for a Cardinal Dougherty team that stormed to the Catholic League championship and then won the City Title.
In 1983, Bennett's uncle, Dave Parkinson, was a second-team Daily News All-City kicker as Northeast captured the Public League crown; he then lifted himself to first-team status in '84.
Sinnott. Bennett. Two n's and two t's in each name. The seniors' Saturday similarities did not end there.
Though La Salle fell into a 14-0 hole within 6 minutes, 40 seconds, Sinnott and Bennett helped to assure it would escape.
The 6-4, 230-pound Sinnott finished with eight tackles. A sack and another tackle-for-loss were included, and he batted down a key pass as well.
The 6-1, 195-pound Bennett, a left-footer, ignored the slick surface to hit his two PATs, blast a 35-yard field goal to break a 14-14 tie with 53 seconds left in the third quarter, and send all four of his kickoffs to at least the 2 (two sailed into the end zone). He also launched a 38-yard punt in the third quarter, helping greatly with the field position battle.
"I think we all thought we'd have snow in the beginning," Sinnott said. "I don't think any of us thought we'd have it for the whole game.
"It actually made things fun. Things kept escalating. We were getting more and more excited. So fired up. Everything turned out exactly how I wanted it."
Well, almost . . . Sinnott nearly posted a fumble recovery midway through the fourth quarter.
"I should have just fallen on it," he said, laughing. "I tried to pick it up and run. I had it, but then slipped and almost fell. And dropped it."
A questionable roughing penalty followed and the Red Rovers marched all the way to La Salle's 19. Ryan Geiger and Sinnott combined for a sack, Sinnott then notched his bat-down and Jamal Abdur-Rahman made a goal line interception two plays later.
At 14-0, who would have predicted such a wonderful outcome?
Sinnott, for one.
"We've had bad starts before," he said. "We just had to stay calm and remember the game lasts four quarters. One guy made a big play. The next guy made a big play. Pretty soon, we were all playing well again."
Bennett, like his uncle, originally was partial to soccer. But once he figured he'd never be much of a varsity player, he gave full-time devotion to kicking and punting. In three varsity seasons, he boasts 190 points on 115 PATs and 25 field goals. (St. Joseph's Prep 2003 grad Pat Kaiser holds the city record with 26.)
"This is the best thing I've ever been part of," he said, referring to his whole career. (Maybe to this game, too.)
He mentioned later, "It was crazy out there. The wet snow was the worst. Everything was clumping on the bottom of my shoes, from the snow to those black things [tire chunks] they put in the turf. You saw me going like this, right?"
He then jumped slightly to bang together his feet.
"The key was clearing the plant spot," he said. "And I made sure to stay balanced, so I wouldn't slip. No leaning."
So, as Bennett blasted the field-goal try, did he know it would succeed?
"Normally," he said, "I have the time to follow through and take a look at what I did. But a kid dove right at my legs and I tripped over him! I didn't even see it go through!"
La Salle scored its touchdowns 2:41 apart in the second quarter as quarterback Drew Loughery negotiated 17 yards on a draw and then whipped a 5-yard pass to tight end Steve Jones. In between, Steve Szostak recovered a fumble.
Victimized by uncommon drops, Loughery went just 6-for-17 for 74 yards. Abdur-Rahman (17-62), wideout Sam Feleccia (6-40; wildcat duties), Loughery (7-40) and Tim Wade (8-33) all had rushing moments.
Easton posted 149 yards on two plays. The other 31 yielded just 68.
Shane Brady and Vinny Migliarese halved 10 stops for La Salle while Szostak, Geiger and Anthony Cognetti evenly divided 12.
The Explorers will be at Northeast High on Saturday afternoon at 1 to face District 1 champion Ridley (13-1), a 19-10 upset winner over North Penn, in a state semifinal.
"I never played in a snow game before," more than a few Explorers could be heard telling anyone who'd listen.
Not even in the back yard as a kid?
"Yeah," one said. "But that doesn't count."