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La Salle defensive stars eager to make memories in state final

NOW IN their fourth year at La Salle High, Ryan Saraceni and Vinny Migliarese boast a treasure trove of football memories.

NOW IN their fourth year at La Salle High, Ryan Saraceni and Vinny Migliarese boast a treasure trove of football memories.

Not all involve playing.

We take you back to Nov. 24, 2006. The night after Thanksgiving. Before a monstrous crowd, the Explorers were playing St. Joseph's Prep, at Northeast's Charlie Martin Memorial Stadium, for the Catholic Red championship.

Ryan and Vinny were in the stands. Their brothers, Rob and Joe, respectively, were on the field, playing key roles in what became a 14-7 upset win for their school.

If you were there, you could have easily picked out the younger brothers.

"It was a pretty cold night," Ryan remembered. "But all I had on was shorts and a T-shirt. And by the time we all ran on the field to celebrate...well, I was down to my britches."

As for Vinny. Down at field level, as the students yelled and screamed and congratulated every player in sight, he wasn't to Ryan's right. Wasn't to his left, either. In fact, he was exactly where he'd been all evening.

"When everyone ran down, I was the only kid left in the student section," he said. "Literally, the only one. I was on crutches. I remember thinking right then, 'This has to happen again, so I can enjoy it.'"

It did, and then some.

La Salle last year captured the CL AAAA championship. This season has again yielded that prize, along with the City Title and a deep run in the state playoffs.

How deep? Tomorrow night at 7 o'clock at Hersheypark Stadium, the Explorers will meet State College to determine Pennsylvania's very best large-enrollment squad.

The 5-10, 205-pound Saraceni will start at inside linebacker. The 5-11, 165-pound Migliarese will line up at cornerback. Together they've made a series of big plays throughout the postseason.

Among their current goals: to achieve lifetime family bragging rights.

"I've already been giving my brother a hard time, because he didn't win a City Title," Migliarese said, smiling. "If I'm able to have a state title over him, too, that would be awesome."

Said Saraceni: "There's always friendly competition between brothers. The longer this has gone on, more of that has melted away. He's so excited about this. Wants it for me so much."

So, Older Bro is talking about it?

"Talking about it? Probably more than I am," Saraceni cracked. "He photocopies the game plan each week, because he wants to know everything that's going on."

In that 2006 memory-maker, Rob Saraceni, now playing lacrosse at St. Joseph's University, served the Explorers at cornerback. Not only did he recover a fumble, he forced another within inches of the goal line, and Greg Frantz returned it 96 yards for a touchdown.

"It's still amazing to me that my brother played cornerback," Ryan said. "He was probably a few pounds heavier than I am right now, as a linebacker. And for a cornerback to force a big fumble like that...Usually that kind of play, right by the goal line, is made by a linebacker."

Before yesterday's last full-scale practice, held on the artificial surface at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High, backup lineman Ted Marino was asked whether Saraceni had yet arrived. The answer was negative, and Marino noted Saraceni would be easy to spot.

"He won't be wearing sleeves," he said. "Kind of a dead giveaway."

Saraceni walked in shortly thereafter. Sure enough, he wore only a short-sleeved T-shirt beneath his shoulder pads. Most of the players were bundled up big-time.

"It's only cold if you think it is," Saraceni said. "This is just how I am."

How Migliarese is, meanwhile, is very thankful to be playing at all.

That ninth-grade stint on crutches resulted from a serious knee injury suffered on the very first day of practice. No contact was even taking place. "Migs" was only jogging and pop!

"A piece of bone chipped off," he said. "The doctor said it was something that built up over time, but that was when it happened. Drew [Loughery, now the star quarterback] and I were the two freshmen practicing with the varsity. Going through that was pretty rough."

Joe Migliarese, then a junior, made seven catches for 84 yards in that game against St. Joe's Prep. One went for a TD. His senior season was cut short by injury, but he rebounded and recently finished his sophomore season as a tight end at Rhode Island. He's flying home tonight and, yes, will head to Hershey, as will at least 15 family members.

By the way, the Saraceni and Migliarese brothers have one sister apiece, Kirsten (younger than the boys) and Michelle (older), respectively.

"My brother has taught me so much about the way you have to approach the sports you play," Vinny said. "At Rhode Island, he said, it's really full time. It consumes you.

"I've learned to give my all to this. Sometimes, you'll hear kids say, 'Ah, man, we have practice today.' I look forward to every one. That one week when we had a bye, it was rough. I went home early on two of those days and it was like, 'What am I going to do?' Couldn't wait to get back at it."

Now he can't wait for tomorrow night. Ditto for his classmate and good buddy.

Saraceni & Migliarese. Maybe a future law firm? For now, thanks to two sets of productive brothers, those names represent proven football combos.i