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Snow stopping Feleccia, La Salle in Class AAAA state title

HERSHEY - Some people apparently know for sure, but Sam Feleccia says he isn't among them.

HERSHEY - Some people apparently know for sure, but Sam Feleccia says he isn't among them.

In the 2005 season, he rushed for a touchdown total somewhere in the 30s as St. Genevieve, of Flourtown, terrorized the CYO football trail. Then again, it might have been in the 40s.

Late Saturday afternoon, with snow still falling at Hersheypark Stadium, and with a PIAA Class AAAA state title, which of course produced unabashed joy, having just been captured, Feleccia was trying his best to pin down a number.

Just then, linebacker Ryan Saraceni walked over.

"Against his team I think I had eight," Feleccia cracked.

And Saraceni playfully pushed on Feleccia's right shoulder, as if to say, "Hey, don't disrespect my old school like that."

Though the St. Gen number is not in Feleccia's memory bank, here's suspecting he'll never forget the one rushing TD he posted as a LaSalle High senior.

It covered 55 yards, highlighted a wonderful overall appearance, and was the Explorers' final score in a 24-7 crunching of State College High, accomplished in a relentless snowstorm that required nonstop plowing and shoveling of the playing surface.

At game's end, the Explorers rushed the field to celebrate. Coach Drew Gordon and his son, Brett, the offensive coordinator, were a little late thanks to a sideline hug that concluded with Brett quite misty-eyed.

There was the usual hooting and hollering as the Explorers received the championship trophy and then defensive coordinator John Steinmetz was urging the players to head back toward the stands, "So we can sing ...and pretend we've got a band." (Due to safety concerns and the high predicted snow amounts, the school had canceled two buses for the band and three more for other students.)

Once the warbling was completed, and they'd exchanged tossed chunks of snow with the fans, many players headed back toward the field to run and run and then uncork delirious headlong and/or baseball slides.

Ah, it's good to be the champion. Especially when the success comes in just the second year of the Catholic League's PIAA membership, and is the league's first at the large-enrollment level in one of the three major sports.

"It's a big deal for our school," said senior quarterback Drew Loughery, also a St. Gen product, who passed 5-for-11 for 109 yards. "But it's more important for what we're doing for District 12 and the city of Philadelphia. We're in the record books forever."

Feleccia, a 6-3, 215-pound senior, generated 203 yards of offense in all. Both out of a Wildcat set and as a regular tailback after a late first-half injury to headliner Jamal Abdur-Rahman, he turned 21 carries into 160 yards. Showing he hadn't forgotten what earned him fame as a high school player, he also made two catches for 43 yards and both came in scoring drives.

Feleccia has received offers from New Hampshire and Delaware, but as he was talking, a teammate ran by and bellowed, "He's going straight to the NFL!"

Feleccia's touchdown came on a lead draw, and was his first non-Wildcat run of the day. Loughery said Feleccia had received rushing calls via handoffs maybe three or four times all season. Feleccia noted the Explorers had practiced that play maybe once since August.

"I knew where to go, though," he said, laughing. "There was a huge hole from the line. I just ran as fast as I could . I was thinking maybe someone was going to catch me. Didn't happen."

Feleccia remained at running back for LaSalle's freshman team and through the early part of his sophomore season with the varsity. Injuries and concern about that season's offensive line caused his shift to wideout and there was no need to switch him back once Abdur-Rahman emerged last season.

Was there a part of Feleccia that wished he'd never ditched rushing?

He smiled and said, "I like the way this turned out. So not really."

"Sam played the game of his life today," Loughery said. "I'm really proud of him. Historic performance."

Ditto for the Man Upstairs in terms of snow. At least the Explorers (14-1) had experienced white-stuff success just 2 weeks ago, in Bethlehem in a 17-14 win over Easton.

"Once the snow forecasts came out this week, some publications in the State College area were saying our offense could be thrown off," Loughery said. "We just sat back and smiled. We knew we were still going to come at them.

"The Easton game helped because we knew what gloves and spikes to wear. My dropbacks were a little slower because I needed to be sure of footwork and getting a good grip on the ball. The offensive line was key. Those guys gave me the extra second or 2 I needed. They played one of their best games."

Mike Bennett, a leftfooter, opened the scoring with a 37-yard field goal that thumped off the left side of the crossbar as it passed through the uprights. It was career No. 26 and enabled Bennett to tie Pat Kaiser, a 2003 St. Joseph's Prep grad, for the city record.

Abdur-Rahman and sophomore fullback Tim Wade, prior to Feleccia's, added one rushing TD apiece; the former suffered his ding (slight tear of MCL) while blocking on Wade's score. Connor Hoffman contributed three catches for 66 yards and his big one, a 40-yarder, immediately followed a 54-yard TD sprint by Abdur-Rahman that was lost to penalty.

Of his TD, Wade said, "We audibled into that. It was supposed to be a pass play. It felt great to get that chance. I wanted the ball so bad. To show what I could do."

The defense, in effect, pitched a shutout because SC's TD was scored on a kickoff return. Steve Sinnott (seven stops) forced/recovered a fumble, Vinny Migliarese intercepted a pass, and six tackles apiece were made by Kevin Forster (two for losses), Shane Brady and Anthony Cognetti.

Feleccia, at outside linebacker, posted three tackles.

"I was not surprised that we shut them down," Drew Gordon said. "Our defense, the last 3, 4 weeks, was nothing short of fabulous. From timing to chemistry to blitzing to covering pass plays to not blowing assignmements...Everything you look for, we had it."

With that, the field was just about empty. The coaches were looking forward to their post-game celebration. The white stuff was still cascading down.

A voice called out. It belonged to assistant Joe Wade, Tim's uncle.

"Hey, we have a snow machine at LaSalle that nobody knows about," he said.

Sure looked like it.