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La Salle, North Penn prep for rematch in playoff semifinal

Look ahead, not back.

Look ahead, not back.

North Penn coach Dick Beck says his team's primary motivation in preparing for a PIAA Class AAAA state semifinal versus La Salle is to advance to HersheyPark Stadium and play for the title, not to avenge the 27-14 loss the Explorers dealt the Knights on Sept 3.

"That game was so long ago," he said. "At this point, it's just about winning and moving on to the next round. We're not looking back, and I'm sure they aren't either."

North Penn, 13-1 and ranked No. 2 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, and top-ranked La Salle (12-1) will clash 1 p.m., Saturday at Plymouth Whitemarsh.

In the season opener, the Explorers, down by 14-6 at intermission, launched an aerial assault, scored three straight times, and handed the Knights their first defeat at home since they lost to Archbishop Wood, 28-15, in the 2006 opener.

La Salle's Matt Magarity, in his first varsity start, completed 13 of 21 passes for 140 and three touchdowns. He also scored on a 1-yard, fourth-quarter keeper.

"They were a heck of a team in Week 1, and they're a heck of a team now," Beck said. It's going to be a huge challenge for us."

La Salle boss Drew Gordon has similar respect for the three-time Suburban One League Continental Conference champions.

"I don't know how we're going to stay with them, to be honest with you," Gordon said. "They look much better than they did in September. They're a machine."

Since losing to the Explorers, North Penn, which last won a state championship in 2003, has won 13 straight by a combined score of 490-163. In Friday's quarterfinal versus Neshaminy, the Knights, with three interceptions and an early fourth-down stand, romped, 42-6, in Newtown.

Tailback Craig Needhammer, whose 53-yard TD scamper started the rout, rolled his right ankle in the second quarter and did not return. Beck said Needhammer, a 1,300-yard rusher who doubles as a safety, will be available versus the Explorers.

La Salle, tightening the screws on defense after intermission, fought past District 11's Easton, 19-7, Saturday at Northeast High and moved to within two wins of retaining its state crown.

Against the Red Rovers, who were held to 67 total yards in the second half, Jamal Abdur-Rahman (17 carries for 105 yards), Kevin Forster (six for 37), and Tim Wade (six for 30) combined for 172 of the team's 192 rushing yards.

Easton-La Salle. Explorers inside linebacker Connor Daly notched 10 of his 12 tackles, including eight solos, in the first half. Sean Burke, also an inside linebacker, chipped in eight tackles, with four solos. Abdur-Rahman, a cornerback, and end Joe Naji posted five tackles apiece. Abdur-Rahman's 37-yard pick-six with 1:53 to play sealed matters. Tackle Ryan Geiger, held out of practice all week due to flu symptoms, had a first-quarter sack and fourth-quarter fumble recovery. . . . Easton, ousted by La Salle in the quarters for the second straight year, netted 133 rushing yards on 36 attempts. . . . La Salle strong safety Connor Murphy injured his right hip midway through the second quarter and did not return. He is expected back vs. North Penn. . . . Magarity hit on 5 of 11 passes for 63 yards.

Stepping down? Rumors are swirling that several Public League coaching veterans, including Frankford's Mike Capriotti and George Washington's Ron Cohen, will soon announce they are retiring.

It's a good bet that Capriotti, 48-33 in seven seasons at his alma mater, will officially call it quits in the next month or so. That would open the door for assistant head coach William Doggett or offensive coordinator Juan Namnun to take over at Large and Dyre Streets.

"I don't have the spark that I used to have," Capriotti, 58, said. "And the coaches that I have with me are very good and could easily step in there."

In June, Capriotti will have 36 years in as a health and physical education teacher in the Philadelphia School District.

As for Cohen, 233-65-2 in 26 years at Washington, things are less certain. "It's up in the air right now," he said. "I want to get away from the game for a few weeks, clear my head a little bit."

Cohen, 68, has been a health and physical education teacher for 44 years. "I'm getting up there, age-wise," he said. The season gets longer and longer each year. Really, it never ends."

Extra points. Washington's Claudy Mathieu, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound two-way end, is slated to visit Temple next weekend. The senior is projected to play defensive end in college. . . . Easton's Justin Pacchioli, who hit on 7 of 18 passes for 64 yards and a score versus La Salle, will play baseball at Lehigh. A catcher for the Red Rovers, he batted .519 last season. . . . On Friday, in a 24-14 win over Strath Haven in a Class AAA quarterfinal, Archbishop Wood linebacker Sam McCain recorded a team-best nine tackles, including six solo stops and a second-quarter sack. Kyle Adkins (five solos) and Andrew Guckin (fourth-quarter sack) each made eight tackles. . . . For Strath Haven, linebacker Alex Geosits led the way with 13 tackles, including seven solos. Next in line for the resurgent Panthers were safety James Griffin (10 stops) and linebacker Jacob Morris (six).

Week 15. Here is the weekend's playoff schedule:


PIAA Class AAA Semifinal

Archbishop Wood (13-0) vs. Allentown Central Catholic (14-0), 7 p.m., at Frank Banko Field in Bethlehem.


PIAA Class AAAA Semifinal

La Salle (12-1) vs. North Penn (13-1), 1 p.m., at Plymouth Whitemarsh.

PIAA Class AA Semifinal

West Catholic (11-2) vs. Lewisburg (14-0), 1 p.m., at HersheyPark Stadium.