La Salle earned a spot in Saturday night's PIAA Class AAAA football championship at HersheyPark Stadium against State College with an impressive 35-7 romp over Ridley in the state semifinal Saturday.
And that road to the championship went through some interesting twists and turns during the previous 13 games.
Today and tomorrow, we continue our look at six of those games and try to shed some light on how they helped form the team that will end its season Saturday.
Yesterday: Sept. 11 vs. Malvern Prep and Sept. 18 vs. West Catholic.
Today: Sept. 26 vs. St. Joseph's Prep and Nov. 20 vs. St. Joseph's Prep.
Sept. 26, St. Joseph's Prep 24, La Salle 17. After rolling out to a 3-0 start, La Salle hit a snag and suffered its only loss of the season so far - to its arch-rival, St. Joseph's Prep.
A week after nipping West Catholic, 16-14, the Explorers visited St. Joe's at jam-packed Plymouth Whitemarsh High in a steady rain and led for most of the game.
But the Hawks took their first lead of the night with just 1 minute, 30 seconds to play when Prep quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg found wideout Bobby D'Orazio in the right corner of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown.
That score gave the Prep an 18-17 lead, and, after the Explorers lost a fumble on a botched snap on their next drive, the Hawks scored an insurance touchdown.
The worst part for La Salle was that it scored on its first three possessions of the game and had a chance to score again when it reached Prep's 19, but a desperation fourth-down pass by Drew Loughery fell incomplete.
The Explorers went into halftime ahead, 17-12, but couldn't mount any offense in the second half. They were without running back Jamal Abdur-Rahman, who was out for the second straight game with a bruised knee, but got 162 yards on 30 carries from fullback Tim Wade.
Loughery finished 15 for 34 passing for 190 yards and one touchdown, and wideout Sam Feleccia caught five passes for 47 yards and ran once for 16 yards.
But the defense gave up too many big plays, and the offense could not answer Prep's offense in the fourth quarter.
Nov. 20, La Salle 35, St. Joseph's Prep 28. This game was for all the marbles. The winner was the Catholic League AAAA championl; the loser went home.
And this time, it was La Salle's turn to show off some late-game heroics. Early in the fourth quarter, the Explorers overcame an eight-point deficit and sent the Hawks home for the winter.
Loughery found receiver Connor Hoffman for a 6-yard touchdown with 11:54 to play, and Abdur-Rahman, healthy once again, caught a flip from Loughery for the two-point conversion, tying the score at 28-28.
Two possessions later, Loughery found wide receiver Kevin Forster over the middle, and the junior wide receiver bolted 37 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
There were several clutch performances in the game but none bigger than Loughery's. He completed 20 of 31 passes for 298 yards and 4 touchdowns - each to a different player. He sparked La Salle's comeback, completing six of his final seven throws, including five straight to end the game.
Hoffman caught six passes for 91 yards. Abdur-Rahman caught five for 58. Feleccia caught four passes for 59 yards, and Forster caught four for 74.
La Salle's defense was just as big down the stretch. Ryan Geiger recorded a 17-yard sack on the Hawks' final drive before La Salle held the ball for the final 5:46 of the game.
Loughery recognized what this game meant to the team as it moved on to the city title game vs. George Washington.
"This is a reflection of how hard we worked and how determined we were," Loughery said after the game. "This is a special group of guys. I expected nothing less."