La Salle Explorers overwhelm Bonner
The question for the 2010 La Salle College High School football team is “what will it do for an encore?” Last year it won the first state championship in school history. By winning the AAAA title, it became the first Philadelphia team to win it all.
Philly has been in active in the state playoffs for five years. But it is a new year, with some new faces, and the team must focus on the task at hand. With a 2-1 record and ranked number one in the state in their title defense, the Explorers went up against Philadelphia Catholic League foe Bonner-Prendergast on Friday, at home at Springfield High School.
Although playing without starting quarterback Mike Magarity, La Salle won easily, 28-0. It used a punishing running game to control play. Senior running back Jamal Abdur-Rahim had a big game with three touchdowns. Kevin Forster played exceptionally in Magarity’s absence, running the offense efficiently while gaining big yards on the ground himself.
Bonner kicked off to start the game, and it kicked away from the dangerous Abdur-Rahim. Sean Coleman foiled the plan though, returning the ball to the 40-yard line. Any doubt about what the plan would be on offense for the Explorers was erased quickly, as Abdur-Rahim ran the ball five straight times to open the Explorers drive. He was successful, making it all the way down to Bonner’s 14-yard line.
Two runs by John Palermo, and it was 3rd and 1. Bonner then stepped up, stopping La Salle on successive plays to take the ball back. After a three and out by Bonner, La Salle s- tarted with great field position at the Bonner 40, but Bonner was up to the challenge again, stopping them on fourth down for the second consecutive time.
La Salle got the ball back on a fumble recovery by Connor Daly, with 1:28 left in the first quarter. Once again Abdur-Rahim ran the ball successively to start the drive. Finally La Salle threw the ball. Fo- rster executed a nice play to Palermo, good for an Explorer first down. Then Forster got his legs going, with a big run play down to the Bonner 4-yard line. After a penalty and a short Forster run, Abdur-Rahim punched it in for the first score.
After a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, Bonner tried to get the offense going. However, it was La Salle’s defense that would step up, namely Joe Naji, with the first of his 2.5 sacks of the day that led to a punt. With La Salle back on offense, Forster ran 15 yards. Then he converted a fourth and 1. Two more big runs by Forster and the Explorers had a first and goal. Again Abdur-Rahimn punched it in, and La Salle led 14-0 with 4:09 left in the half.
Bonner finally moved the ball. John McGilligan took it back to the 40 with his speed. Then quarterback Sean Quarterman threw to Jamie Juisti for five yards. Ismir Gibson then ran the ball, producing the first first-down for Bonner. After Joseph Spaeder gained 7 yards, Naji came up with his second big play of the game, tackling a Bonner rusher for a big loss. This brought up third and 12. Quarterman ran the draw for 8 yards. At mid-field and in four down territory, Bonner tried a pass, but it failed and La Salle took over, kneeling down to end the half.
Bonner had the ball to start the second half. After gaining one first-down, they were stopped. Forced to punt, Bonner made a mistake. The punter could not handle the snap and was forced to try to throw for a first down. It was ruled an illegal play, and La Salle took over at the 30-yard line of Bonner.
A mix of runs and a pass led to a Forster touchdown run. La Salle led 21-0 with 5:42 left in the third quarter. After a decent Bonner possession, La Salle got the ball back. They faced another fourth and one, and executed the old “try to get them offsides” play to perfection. Then Abdul-Rahim broke free for the biggest gain of the night – a 37-yard touchdown romp, breaking tackles along the way. The teams went back and forth a few more times, but the score stayed the same, 28-0 Explorers.
“Kevin Forster played quarterback for the first time ever in high school and he was just outstanding,” La Salle Coach Drew Gordon said. “Jamal had a good game running the ball, defense was outstanding, linemen had a great game too. We knew we had to keep the ball on the ground. Kevin’s a very composed athlete, big time lacrosse player, I knew he had the maturity – I knew he would keep everybody calm. He did everything we asked him to do and more.”
Abdur-Rahim said he was happy with the running game.
“It was good game,” he said. “We ran mostly – they were a good team and we played well. We dug deep and realized it wasn’t an easy team, and they weren’t going to back down from us. We accomplished what we had to.
Forster, normally a wide receiver on offense (he also starts at safety), said of the game, “We have a lot of injuries, but we got the job done. Matt [Magarity] went down, [so we] changed the offense – didn’t throw as much. I’m obviously not as much a passer as a runner but it worked out.
Finally Naji talked about the defense.
“I think today our defense brought it together for an entire game,” he said. “It looks like it worked out for everybody. I think what we focus on and what we work on is getting better every week.”
Quarterman said, “I think we had our chances. We shot ourselves in the foot a lot. Made some mistakes playing against a team that’s the number one team in the state. We just have to roll with the punches and get ready for next week.”Next week La Salle plays a very good Roman Catholic team, with a 3-1 record