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Geiger helps lead La Salle over North Penn and into state finals

You know how the Red Cross always notes during the holiday season that its blood supplies are dangerously low?

You know how the Red Cross always notes during the holiday season that its blood supplies are dangerously low?

We've found a potential donor: Ryan Geiger's face.

There are one, two, three cuts on Geiger's kisser, and at times they darn near gush. Why, just 2 days ago, in fact . . .

Before a monstrous, ever-roaring crowd at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High, with La Salle and North Penn locked in a classic, back-and-forth brawl for the honor of representing the East in Saturday's PIAA Class AAAA final, time was called and the Explorers' defenders strolled toward the sideline for rest and instructions.

The 6-1, 260-pound Geiger, a senior defensive tackle (and center), removed his helmet and . . . whoa, who invited the Red Sea?

Dom D'Addona switched from assistant coach to cut man. With all the aplomb of Angelo Dundee, he used a white towel to wipe away the blood and assure Geiger could remain on duty.

"In a moment like that," Geiger said, "you don't want to have to leave the game. We had to get rid of the blood."

And the two-way force had to see to it that La Salle, the defending state champion, would again emerge as the winner over this vaunted foe; it had captured the season opener, 27-14.

Seconds later, North Penn quarterback Corey Ernst lofted a short, right-side pass. La Salle end Joe Naji managed a deflection. Geiger, his eyes as big as saucers, spotted the helicoptering ball and used his big mitts to gather it against his belly. Just 1 minute, 14 seconds later, having mounted five comebacks (from 7-0, 14-7, 21-17, 28-24 and 35-31), La Salle owned a 38-35 win.

"Every other time I went in there, [Ernst] put it right over my hands," Naji said. "I just could not get to it. I'm so happy I got it that last time.

"I turned around and saw the ball falling into Ryan's lap. I was praying to God he was going to catch it."

No sweat. During the post-game gather-'round, coach Drew Gordon kidded Geiger about how he now ranks as the team's top receiver. He remembered how Geiger, back in mid-October, picked off a pass against Father Judge and rumbled 59 yards for the first points of his life.

"I caught this one with my stomach," Geiger said. "That made it pretty easy. I wasn't really thinking about going for another touchdown. I knew that was it because North Penn had wasted all their timeouts."

The cuts on Geiger's face include one at exactly the point where the nose meets the forehead, and two more above. The larger one is roughly three-quarters the size of a dime.

"The one on my nose goes back to the first Roman game [Oct. 1]," he said. "The other ones go back about a month, and to last week. I thought the older ones would be scarred up by now. Well, one was, but it popped open last week vs. Easton.

"You put bandages on them, but they slide off because of the sweat. You hate having to come out."

You also can't stand surrendering yardage, and allowing your opponent to enjoy great success on third-down (and even fourth-down) conversions.

As Naji noted, "We were struggling for a while. North Penn's offense was firing on all cylinders. They were giving us a lot of stuff we hadn't seen."

At halftime, defensive coordinator John Steinmetz made a crucial switch. Geiger had been lining up over a tackle. For the rest of the way he'd be stationed across from the center.

In those final 24 minutes, he made nine tackles. Two went for losses.

"On top of the tackle, my legs were getting cut out," said Geiger, who's generating interest from Lehigh, Lafayette, Bucknell and Stony Brook. "I only had to face base blocks over the center and that made it easier to make my moves. Our ends were doing their jobs and the plays were coming right back to me in the middle."

Despite its overall difficulties, La Salle's defense did experience some success. Sean Coleman posted an interception late in the third quarter and, in the second, Conor Murphy recovered a fumble on a kickoff return (forced by Dad Poquie) to set up what turned out to be the decisive points, on Ryan Winslow's 24-yard field goal.

The offense leaned heavily on three guys. Matt Magarity passed 10-for-19 for 180 yards and two touchdowns, Coleman made five of the snags for 114 yards and one of the scores (Tim Wade had the other), and Villanova-commit Jamal Abdur-Rahman posted 142 yards and three TDs on 21 carries.

Abdur-Rahman will enter Saturday's championship game vs. North Allegheny (5 o'clock at Hersheypark Stadium) needing 88 rushing yards to reach 4,000 for his career. He also boasts 1,106 receiving yards.

Gordon already owns his milestone. This was win No. 100 in his 10-year association with the program. He's 51-15 in five seasons as the head coach and the Explorers were 49-13 in the five when he assisted Joe Colistra (1994-97 and again in 2005).

Considering the nature of the game, and what was at stake, there were times on Saturday when Gordon was seeing red.

Ryan Geiger could relate.