HERSHEY, Pa. - It was a position La Salle simply wasn't used to: The Explorers' backs were against the wall.
La Salle fell behind early in the first quarter and couldn't come back Saturday night. The result was a 21-0 loss to North Allegheny in the PIAA Class AAAA championship game at HersheyPark Stadium.
"It's been a successful year for me and my team," running back Jamal Abdur-Rahman said. "I'm not too happy with the outcome, and I don't know when I'll accept it. But it's been a successful three years."
Abdur-Rahman carried 17 times for 50 yards. Those numbers are modest compared with what the senior running back is used to. But they were the only solid numbers on the stat sheet for La Salle (13-2) after the game.
Mistakes, both forced and unforced, bogged down the Explorers throughout the contest.
La Salle committed five turnovers. North Allegheny had none.
"There wasn't anything that they didn't take advantage of - whether it was something they caused or that we screwed up," said La Salle coach Drew Gordon. "They caused a lot of our problems. We played as bad as we've played all season, but they caused a lot of what went wrong."
Offensively, North Allegheny (15-1) overpowered La Salle on the ground.
The Tigers gained 220 rushing yards on 44 attempts. Running back Matt Steinbeck led North Allegheny with 20 carries for 120 yards. Quarterback Michael Buchert also had a solid day running the ball, gaining 51 yards on 13 carries.
"Everybody knew we were going to run the ball today," said North Allegheny coach Art Walker. "But it's a credit to our team that we were still able to have success."
Up by 14-0 to start the second half, North Allegheny set up its third touchdown by completing its only pass of the game.
The play was a flea-flicker, thrown by wide receiver Brendan Coniker and completed to Dan Slivka for 30 yards to the Explorers' 1-yard line.
Buchert - who went 0 for 6 passing - punched the ball in on the next play, and the point-after kick put the Tigers up by 21-0 with 7 minutes, 46 seconds left in the third.
The rest of the game was marred by interceptions and fumbles by La Salle.
"You can't expect to turn the ball over five times and win the game," Gordon said.
Mistakes also served to keep La Salle scoreless in the first half.
On the fourth play of the game, Tim Wade fumbled a swing pass, giving North Allegheny the ball at the Explorers' 40.
Nine plays later, the Tigers were up by a touchdown.
North Allegheny ran the ball on every play of its first drive, capping it with a 4-yard touchdown run by Buchert.
Buchert again used his legs on his team's next scoring drive just before halftime.
The quarterback's two consecutive long keepers set up a 27-yard touchdown run by Steinbeck with 47 seconds left in the half.
The Explorers' best drive lasted 15 plays and went for 80 yards, starting at the end of the first quarter.
But the drive ended when Matt Magarity threw the first of his three picks, on fourth and 8 from the 16.
"I had a lot of friends on this team over the years and they were great and it was a great season," said La Salle senior defensive lineman Ryan Geiger. "We just fell behind early and couldn't come back."
La Salle 0 0 0 0 - 0
North Allegheny 7 7 7 0 - 21
NA: Buchert 4 run (Greenblatt kick)
NA: Steinbeck 27 run (Greenblatt kick)
NA: Buchert 1 run (Greenblatt kick)