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La Salle seeks to defy odds against St. Joe’s Prep in Catholic League football final

La Salle's defense has to contend with a St. Joseph's Prep offense averaging 299 yards rushing and 188 passing.

La Salle OB Sean Daly (5) runs the ball in the Explorers' 49-12 loss to St. Joseph's Prep on Sept. 28 at Widener.
La Salle OB Sean Daly (5) runs the ball in the Explorers' 49-12 loss to St. Joseph's Prep on Sept. 28 at Widener.Read moreAvi Steinhardt / For the Inquirer

For those giving La Salle no chance at beating juggernaut St. Joseph's Prep in the Catholic League Class 6A final, keep in mind one of the more memorable chapters in the long-running title series.

In 2006, after the Prep rolled to a 42-14 victory over La Salle during the regular season, the Explorers turned the tables on the Hawks in the Red Division final and shockingly won, 14-7.

For the seventh consecutive season, the archrivals will meet for top league honors at 7 p.m. Friday at Northeast's Charlie Martin Memorial Stadium.

The Prep is 8-0, ranked No. 11 in the country by USA Today, and has outscored foes by 377-131.

The Hawks scored on each of their first six possessions and eased past the Explorers, 49-12, in the teams' regular-season meeting Sept. 28 at Widener.

"La Salle always plays us hard, and I expect the same Friday night," Prep coach Gabe Infante said. "And it's always difficult to beat a team twice in the same year."

After an 0-3 start, La Salle (5-5) has won four of its last five games. It is seeking its first title since 2015, when it rallied to beat the favored Prep, 29-28, in the final minute.

"Obviously, when we played them the first time this season, the result was disappointing," Explorers coach John Steinmetz said. "We've improved since then and are doing some good things."

Key for La Salle is to sustain drives on offense, keeping the ball away from the high-powered Hawks as much as possible, and avoid special-teams mistakes.

The Prep's quick-strike attack is powered by quarterback Kyle McCord, running back Kolbe Burrell, handyman Marques Mason, and receivers Johnny Freeman, Marvin Harrison, Jack Sutton, and Shamir Hagans.

McCord, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound sophomore with scholarship offers from the likes of Michigan and Penn State, has hit on 117 of 175 passes for 1,706 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Burrell has carried 77 times for 485 yards and seven scores. Mason, Freeman, Harrison, and Sutton have combined to make 104 catches for 1,613 yards and 18 TDs.

La Salle lost starting QB Jack Machita to an injury in Week 2. Sean Daly, who was expected to contribute as a running back and Wildcat QB, took over under center.

Daly has passed for 700 yards and six scores and rushed for 608 yards and eight TDs.

"Everything for them revolves around him, and it looks like he's become more and more comfortable playing the position," Infante said.

The Explorers' stable of running backs includes Manny Quiles (69 carries for 512 yards, five TDs) and up-and-coming freshmen Sam Brown and Abdul Carter.

The Prep held La Salle to 84 yards rushing on 28 attempts and 64 passing in winning last year's final, 17-3.

Inside the Game

No. 16 La Salle (5-5) vs. St. Joseph's Prep (8-0), at Northeast, Friday at 7 p.m.

Twitter: Follow at ozoneinq for live updates.


History: The Hawks lead the overall series, 52-36-5.

Up front: The Explorers offensive line is anchored by guard Ronnie Ross and tackles Leland Mersky and Ryan Wills.

Solid group. The Prep's linebacking corps is led by Kim Cooper, Liam Johnson, Jeremiah Trotter Jr., and Myles Talley.

Projected return. La Salle halfback Manny Quiles sat out last week's semifinal win over Father Judge while nursing an injury, but is expected to play Friday.

In the trenches. The Hawks defensive line is headed by Anthony Leneghan, Nick Yagodich, Andrew Bailey, and Giambi Nesbitt.

Pick: St. Joe's Prep, 35-14.