Dan's Spin
Football 2013

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  Dan Spinelli was one of our youngest website writers ever. Now he's a senior at La Salle High, but has been attending scholastic events for what seems like forever and he's pumped up about being able to express his thoughts on the Explorers and other squads. Thanks for your contributions, Dan!
  You may reach at Dan at dspin3@comcast.net.
  


Dan is now doing shows about Philly high school sports with his buddy, Nick Mandarano, who attends
Lansdale Catholic.
Here's the link . . .
http://www.30minutesofmadness.com/highschool.html

 

NOV. 1
CATHOLIC AAAA SEMIFINAL
La Salle 35, Judge 0

  A realization hit me, while watching this PCL semifinal matchup between La Salle and Father Judge, that from now on each La Salle football game I watch could be my last one as a student. It’s a very strange feeling—knowing that the end is so close. As I shared these feelings with AJ Carabello, the press box assistant for his dad and La Salle’s PA announcer, Mr. Carabello, he simply looked at the scoreboard and said, “Danny, I don’t think this will be your last game.” With a 35-0 final score, I think AJ had the right of this one.

La Salle was never in danger of losing this game, as Explorer junior QB Kyle Shurmur put on a show with five TD passes (the most in city playoff history), three of which went to WR Jimmy Herron. Herron now has six total touchdowns over the last two games. Shurmur’s other touchdown passes connected with junior RB Jordan Meachum and sophomore WR/DB Charles Headen. The Explorer defense also played fantastically, with sacks on Judge junior QB Zach Carroll recorded by La Salle sophomore Anthony Piscopo, junior Keith Wagner, and two each (!) by seniors Ryan Coonahan and Raekwon Caswell. For Father Judge, their defense was anchored by the stellar play of sophomore Prince Smith. Additionally, sophomore LB Hunter Joseph recorded a nice sack.

The theme of today’s game was “passing”—both teams moved the ball well in the air, but La Salle especially had success. In the game’s first drive, Shurmur moved the Explorers almost exclusively with passing plays, including a 35 yard connection with Herron. A 27-yard touchdown pass, also to Herron, capped off that first drive. After a punt by the Crusaders, Shurmur again moved the Explorers right down the field. In a time-consuming drive, the Explorers ended up having a 4th down and 9 from the Judge 12-yard line. Shurmur passed to Meachum for the touchdown, putting the Explorers up 14-0 with 2:16 remaining in the first quarter.

  Judge’s ensuing drive brought us into the second quarter, and it included some sterling runs by Crusader senior Marquis Seamon. He began the drive with two consecutive 10-yard runs, bringing Judge into La Salle territory. The drive began to fall apart when a Judge holding penalty gave them a 1st down and 24 at the La Salle 32-yard line. Not even an offside penalty on La Salle could resuscitate the Crusader drive as they faced 4th down and 14 from the La Salle 22-yard line. As Zach Carroll dropped back to pass, he faced incredible pressure from Explorer senior LB/OL Zaire Franklin, who nearly sacked the quarterback. Carroll tossed the ball away, giving the Explorers possession.

  Shurmur began another La Salle possession with (you guessed it) another long pass to Herron. On 1st down, Shurmur tossed a 52-yard pass to Herron, giving the Explorers great field position deep into Judge territory. The drive ended with a 17-yard pass to Herron, putting the Explorers up 21-0 with 9:53 left in the second quarter. The score would remain that way for the rest of the half. Judge did mount another drive into the red zone, but had to settle for a field goal attempt from senior K/P Connor Foley. His 36-yard attempt did not go through the uprights, leaving the score at 21-0 La Salle at halftime.

  Judge received the ball to begin the second half, and partially due to a Coonahan sack, ended up having to punt on a three-and-out. The next Explorers drive was the “Charles Headen” show. Of the eight offensive plays run during the drive (two of which were called back due to penalties), Headen was the main player, both as a running back and receiver, in four of them, including the capstone touchdown. With 7:25 remaining in the third quarter, Shurmur found Headen in the end zone for a 10-yard score. The Explorers were now up on the Crusaders 28-0.

  The game’s final points were scored near the end of the third quarter. A 15-yard pass from Shurmur to Herron cemented a relationship worth 18 points in tonight’s game. Up in the stands watching tonight’s game was Harvard freshman Sean Coleman, who reeled in four touchdowns in last year’s PCL championship, watching his virtual protégé, Jim Herron, continue a La Salle legacy of multi-sport athletes.

  Late in the game, Explorer fans saw another taste of La Salle sophomore QB Chris Ferguson, who replaced Shurmur early in the fourth quarter. Ferguson handed the ball off a lot to junior RB Justin Campanella, who was pretty consistent in his runs. The backup Explorers also moved the chains quite nicely on a third-down pass to senior Peter Brooks. When the backup offense got the ball back late in the game, it seemed almost like they could drive for another touchdown. Ferguson tossed a beautiful ball to Brooks, and then a 17-yard one to junior TE Ian McIntosh for two consecutive first downs. Unfortunately, a fumble recovery by Judge ended the drive at the Judge 17-yard line. Regardless, the underclassmen on this football team again showed why La Salle can be confident in its team’s success for years to come.

  Before signing off, I do want to give a shout-out to Father Judge for winning the PCL Championship in soccer on Tuesday of this week. While my good friends at Lansdale Catholic were not able to pull out a win, both my LC friends and I all agreed that the Judge student section was fantastic during the soccer game. It was nice to see so many kids out to support their school. Congrats!

Onward we go to face the winner of the Roman-SJ Prep game next week in the PCL Championship. I am lucky enough to be able to witness four Catholic League championship games in four years as a student. Hopefully, I’ll be able to witness four wins. Hail La Salle!

 

OCT. 26
NON-LEAGUE
La Salle 42, West Catholic 12
  In the 2013 edition of this annual battle of Philadelphia’s two Christian Brothers’ powers, the La Salle Explorers emerged victorious. Contrary to other West-La Salle games of the past, tonight’s matchup was never close. La Salle led by as much as 35-6, and ended up cruising to a 42-12 victory. Even though the Burrs of West Catholic never gathered enough momentum to make the game competitive, they continually wowed the crowd with stunning displays of athleticism, most notably in the almost video game-like moves of senior running back Greg White (14 rushes for 134 yards, 1 TD). Meanwhile, Explorer junior Jimmy Herron had a stellar day, reeling in 2 TD passes and earning another TD on a pick-six. The running theme for the game was both teams’ constant ability to break tackles. Time and time again, plays that seemed dead were revived when the offensive player would just escape a tackle. Overall, this game provided a good prelude to what will be a brutally competitive Catholic League 4A playoff season.

  After a West Catholic three-and-out to begin the game, La Salle struck paydirt on only their second offensive play of the game. After a penalty which caused La Salle to have 1st down and 24 from their own 46 yard line, junior QB Kyle Shurmur connected with Herron on a 53 yard TD pass. Senior K/P Matt Raczak easily kicked through the extra point for a 7-0 Explorers lead. After trading punts, West took back the ball, starting at their own 5 yard line. After a third-down keeper by West junior QB Antwain McCollum earned the Burrs a new set of downs, Greg White broke loose for his first “WOW” moment of the game. Even after White’s 66-yard romp to bring the Burrs deep into Explorer territory, West still could not force a touchdown, having to turn the ball over. On a related note, West Catholic’s inability (or lack of a desire) to kick a field goal resulted in a bunch of turnovers-on-down in the La Salle red zone, as well as two missed 2-point conversions. The first quarter ended inconspicuously enough, with a 7-0 lead by La Salle.

  In the game’s second quarter, things really began to get interesting. Case in point: West Catholic only ran a handful of offensive plays all quarter. Meanwhile, La Salle was collecting points in a variety of ways. But it was the Burrs who struck first. On the third play of the quarter, McCollum connected with junior WR/DB Akhil Crumpton on a second down pass. Crumpton appeared to be toast as La Salle senior DB Kolby Stein had Crumpton’s jersey in his grasp. In an utterly bizarre turn of events, Crumpton spun free from Stein and broke loose down the right sideline. He made it to the endzone and suddenly it was 7-6 La Salle. Without blinking an eye, Shurmur found an open Jordan Meachum who reeled in a 55-yard pass. The junior RB tore down the right sideline for a touchdown. The Explorers took back the lead, 14-6, with 10:30 left in the quarter. But oh, hold onto your seatbelts, the fun is not over yet. On West Catholic’s first play after the kickoff, junior LB Aidan Kerrigan (oh yes…the last name is familiar…think “Connor”) collected an interception from McCollum, again giving La Salle possession. After a three-minute long offensive drive, Shurmur took the ball himself from 1 yard out for another touchdown. Now, La Salle led 21-6. On the ensuing kickoff, West Catholic turned the ball over again. Junior RB/LB David Swen received Raczak’s kick, but soon fumbled it. In the rush for the ball, Explorer sophomore RB Jared Walls came up with possession. After an elongated drive, Meachum scored on a 1 yard plunge. In less than ten minutes, La Salle had expanded their lead from 7-0 to 28-6.

  Finally, as if the second quarter could not get any wilder, Jimmy Herron intercepted another McCollum pass. He returned it about 40 yards for another Explorer TD, and a 35-6 lead. Yet again, Greg White refused to let the crowd get their blood pressure medication and simply relax. He broke free for a 45 yard run, but with under a minute left West Catholic could not convert a fourth down in the red zone. At halftime, the score remained 35-6.

  The second half toned down the excitement a bit. It took 11 minutes and 12 seconds before the score changed. Greg White’s exploits finally resulted in a touchdown, as he rushed in from 18 yards out to put West Catholic back into contention with a 35-12 score. With six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Shurmur connected with Herron for a 13 yard score, which gave the game its final score of 42-14. The lack of offensive power in the second-half can quite sensibly be credited to the excellent defense of both teams. For La Salle, senior DE Ryan Coonahan was involved in more tackles than I can possibly remember. He also sacked McCollum twice. Along with Coonahan, La Salle’s defense was assisted by a string of underclassmen, including Aidan Kerrigan, Ryan Brady, Anthony Piscopo, Jim Herron, and AJ Greseszak. The senior leaders included DB Steve Hudak, DL Bill Frusco, DL Ryan Seiss, DL Tom McClain (who assisted Coonahan on one sack), and LB Zaire Franklin. The huge impact of sophomores and juniors on the defense ably reminds the La Salle fans of how potent this football team will be in the years to come.

  On Friday night against Father Judge, La Salle will begin its playoff run. I had a moment of nostalgia during this game, as I remembered the first game I ever reported on for TedSilary.com (involving West Catholic and Roman Catholic) way back in August of 2010. Very soon (probably sooner than I would like), my reporting tenure at this website will come to an end. Hopefully, this football team will give me many more games to write about before the season comes to an end. Hail La Salle!

 

OCT. 11
CATHOLIC AAAA
SJ Prep 35, La Salle 28

  On this rainy and bitter October night, two of Philly’s most potent football teams went to battle. And tonight, the St. Joe’s Prep Hawks stood tall at the end. In a sometimes lopsided game, the Explorers capped off an impressive fourth quarter comeback to fall just short of the Hawks, 35-28. Even though the local news media has done an impressive job dissecting the game, I would like to add my two cents before closing the book on this PCL regular season matchup. I hope you will oblige me as we journey through the final moments of this hard-fought football game. After looking at the game’s final minutes, I’ll touch on some key players from St. Joe’s Prep and then more fully analyze La Salle’s performance.

  At the 3:58 mark of the fourth quarter, I scribbled the words “crunch time” at the top of my notes. Down 35-28, La Salle needed to make a huge defensive stop. They kicked off to the Hawks, who received the ball at the 28 yard line. On 3rd and 2 from the Hawk 35 yard line, St. Joe’s senior quarterback Chris Martin completed a ten yard strike to freshman phenom D’Andre Swift. On the ensuing play, junior RB Olamide Zaccheaus moved the chains again with a twelve yard run. La Salle head coach Drew Gordon burned two timeouts as the Explorer defense attempted to hurriedly preserve the chance for one last La Salle offensive drive. Finally, it came to 4th down for St. Joe’s from the La Salle 37 yard line. Now, I hesitate to ever pass judgment on the decisions of high school head coaches. What do I, a seventeen year old fan, know about football that a veteran head coach does not? That being said, St. Joe’s head coach Gabe Infante decided to go for it on fourth down. Meanwhile, my expectation was that the Hawks would try for a hard count to pull the Explorers offside, or maybe simply take a delay of game penalty to give their punter more room to kick. Instead, the Hawks tossed a long ball down the left sideline. After almost being intercepted, the ball was dropped, giving the Explorers possession.

  On 1st and 10 from the La Salle 37 yard line, Explorer junior QB Kyle Shurmur rushed for the first down. As the clock ticked below forty seconds, Shurmur lined the Explorers up again…only to toss a game-ending interception to Hawk junior DB/WR John Reid. Though the end came rather unexpectedly, this was a game that many thought would be over well before the forty second mark of the fourth quarter. In fact, the local news media had roundly predicted a St. Joe’s victory. And the Explorers first half performance seemed to prove these predictions soundly correct.

  The Explorers trailed 28-7 at halftime. They did not record a first down until the 8:12 mark of the second quarter! In many ways, La Salle struggled during this game. But, and as I will accentuate throughout this article, they absolutely did not quit. To rebound from a 21 point deficit to end the game on a game-tying drive in St. Joe’s territory—well, that shows spirit and tenacity. No member of the Explorer football team will deny that at times La Salle struggled and committed mistakes, but their ability to mount a nearly successful comeback in a high-pressure environment is utterly admirable. Of course, credit needs to be given where it is due. Hawk QB Chris Martin completed 18 of 25 passes for 226 yards and three TDs. Two of those scores were hauled in by the freshman Swift, who on the day hauled in 4 catches for 65 yards. Zaccheaus rushed 10 times for 75 yards and a touchdown while Martin himself ran for 15 times for 62 yards and an additional score. No one at Plymouth-Whitemarsh tonight can doubt the offensive might of the St. Joe’s Prep Hawks. Their game-plan was strong and was executed very well. From the beginning, the Hawks assaulted La Salle’s secondary with a relentless array of passes. After Martin tossed a red-zone interception to Explorer sophomore DB AJ Greseszak late in the first quarter, the Hawks began running the ball a bit more. They eventually achieved a terrifying equilibrium with Zaccheaus and Martin’s running complementing the catches by Swift and senior WR Jawan McAllister.

  For my beloved Explorers, there were, of course, some silver linings in this loss. Chief among them was the hustle displayed by senior LB/TE Zaire Franklin, who has now stepped up to a role on both sides of the ball. His hustle is apparent in each play he is in, and hardly is he not involved in a tackle. Syracuse, as I’m sure they know, is getting a good man next year. Meanwhile, senior DE Ryan Coonahan again made an impact as a leader on the defensive line, and was involved in a number of tackles. Senior DB Steve Hudak held the fort back in the secondary, where he, Grezeszak, and junior Jimmy Herron, chased around the likes of Zaccheaus, McAllister, and Swift. Also making stops on defense were seniors Tamar Turner and Raekwon Caswell. I was really impressed by a pair of La Salle underclassmen who ran the ball spectacularly: junior Jordan Meachum, who rushed 20 times for 106 yards, and sophomore Nick Rinella, who rushed 3 times for 17 yards and two touchdowns. Also, the O-line was superb, only allowing one sack throughout the game. Sophomore Anthony Piscopo, junior Aidan Kerrigan senior Tyler Fallon, and senior Bill Frusco, as well as Franklin, all stayed tough throughout the grueling grind of a game. In fact, the La Salle-St. Joe’s Prep game lasted for almost three hours. The first half took two hours! Meanwhile, on special teams senior Matt Raczak showed the incredible depth of La Salle’s kickers and punters. After superstars Mike Bennett and Ryan Winslow, “Raz” is following straight in their footsteps. Complementing him on special teams is the incredible abilities of Grezeszak (whose name I have autocorrected now about fifteen times), Herron, and sophomore Charles Headen.

  La Salle moves onward to a battle with Roman Catholic next week at Northeast High. As we trudge through the remainder of the regular season, one popular adage remains true, “You’re never as good as you think you are, and you are never as bad as you think you are.” Keep up the good work, La Salle. We are all rooting for you. Hail La Salle!

  As everyone’s favorite Lansdale Catholic football coach likes to say, “We don’t want to go undefeated. We just want to win every game.” Besides being a fountain of good (and sometimes indecipherable) football quotes, coach Tom Kirk also knows a thing or two about motivating players to play to the best of their ability. I was at the Lansdale Catholic-Archbishop Wood game on Saturday night, and though the score will not reflect it, LC really prepared for and played Wood well. I know that Coach Kirk was named PCL AAA Coach of the Year last year, and as his award correctly reflects, Kirk has done an immeasurably good job at reigniting the football program at Lansdale Catholic. Bravo!

 

SEPT. 7
NON-LEAGUE
Imhotep 40, La Salle 28 

            My final season as a high school sports reporter for TedSilary.com began in quite dreary fashion. The theme of tonight’s nonleague matchup between La Salle and traditional Public League power Imhotep Charter was “one step forward and two steps back” for the Explorers. Every time La Salle seemed to close the gap during a game in which they never led, the Panthers again pulled away. Imhotep Charter has a great mix of athleticism and discipline, and even amongst a slew of penalties, they maintained a solid team force that simply overpowered La Salle. By the end of tonight’s contest, La Salle was sorely reminded of its mortality amongst other city powers. There were some silver linings for the Explorers and, of course, they will be noted. But, alas, the recapping MUST be done. Shall we proceed?

            La Salle owned the game’s first possession, and after a trio of first downs, turned the ball over on the Imhotep 37-yard line. Imhotep took over and proceeded to give the crowd en masse at the Northwest (nee Germantown) Super Site a tutorial on how to dominate with athleticism. On first down, Panther junior QB Andre Dreuitt completed a pass to star junior WR/K/P DJ Moore. Moore caught the ball one-handed, collected it, and ran 59 yards with the ball. As a sportswriter, you have to call 'em as they are. Moore was beyond impressive all the night, and the fact that he is only a junior made my jaw drop when I realized it. He is a versatile, quick, athletic player that certainly will cause nightmares for days in the minds of La Salle’s coaches. Imhotep scored one play later on a 4-yard touchdown run by junior RB Nasir Bonner. The Panthers converted their 2-point conversion attempt to take an 8-0 lead.

            A note here on La Salle’s defense: they definitely felt the loss of senior linebacker Zaire Franklin, who sat out of tonight’s game with some type of injury (his arm was in a cast). Franklin, who has committed to Divison-1 Syracuse for football, was not only a vocal leader of the defense but a ferocious tackler.

            After a punt by La Salle on the next drive, Imhotep embarked on a 97-yard drive to the end zone (you can get the feeling of my blood boiling during this madness). The drive was helped by a nice 15 yard run by Imhotep senior Deandre Scott when the Panthers were nearly down-and-out, with 3rd and 10 from their own 3-yard line. Panther sophomore RB Mike Waters capped the brilliant drive with a 17-yard touchdown run. The PAT (not taken by DJ Moore, whose hand was a bit bruised up after his one-handed catch) was blocked by La Salle senior DB Steve Hudak. Hudak, who is committed to Brown University to play lacrosse, is a definite leader on the La Salle defense and he made a number of crucial plays, including a brilliant stop later in the game on a kickoff return that stole a touchdown from Imhotep. Imhotep led 14-0 with 2:46 remaining in the first quarter.

            La Salle fans finally saw some action on the Explorers’ next drive. On second down from their 25-yard line, La Salle junior QB Kyle Shurmur connected with senior WR Levi Hardy for a 74-yard touchdown. A quick point on Hardy: he is incredibly quick, which is not surprising, considering that he was part of a national championship track-and-field team that won the Distance-Medley-Relay at the Penn Relays this past April. In tonight’s game, he used his athletic talents to score two touchdowns for the Explorers. Shurmur is also a true athletic specimen—6’4”, 215 lbs. He has an incredible throw and outstanding vision, but he had a tough night tonight with 3 interceptions. After Hardy’s TD, the Explorers cut Imhotep’s lead to 14-7.

            After entering the second quarter down seven, La Salle tied the game on a 19-yard touchdown run by junior RB Jordan Meachum. Meachum must have had a boatload of yards in tonight’s game, as he shaped up to be Shurmur’s favorite receiver in the second half. Even though the Explorers could never really get their running game going, Meachum was a force as a wideout for La Salle. It will be a pleasure to see him further develop this year. When La Salle got the ball back, an unfortunate development occurred during a goal-line drive by the Explorers. La Salle tried three times from 1st and Goal at the 5-yard line, but could not find paydirt. On 4th down, Shurmur seemingly crossed the plane, but in the confusion/ruckus of the goal line, Imhotep ended up with the ball. The ensuing result was a touchback, as the fumble was recovered in the end zone, and Imhotep rattled off another serious drive. Dreuitt tossed a 52-yard touchdown to his favorite target, DJ Moore, and suddenly La Salle went from taking a lead to falling behind the Panthers 20-14 (the PAT was missed).

            And it does not improve: on La Salle’s next possession, Shurmur fumbled, Imhotep recovered, and the 12-yard loss associated with the fumble put Imhotep in good field possession for another attempt at the goal line. Dreuitt chose Nasir Bonner for this 35-yard touchdown pass (with under four seconds left in the half) and Imhotep led 26-14 at halftime. Moore and Bonner finished the half with two TDs each.

            A plethora of pernicious penalties began the second half. A solid sack of Dreuitt by sophomore Anthony Piscopo and junior Ryan Brady preceded two straight penalties by Imhotep. La Salle senior Bill Frusco then knocked the ball loose on a 3rd and 22, with senior DE Ryan Coonahan recovering the ball. After a series of penalties on the Explorers, Shurmur tossed a beautiful 33-yard pass to Meachum. Now again—here comes the one-step forward and two steps back. After an Imhotep punt, La Salle’s next possession appeared promising. But on 3rd and 22 from the La Salle 38-yard line, a Shurmur pass was deflected by Imhotep senior LB Randell Hunter, who scooped up the pass and returned it for a Panther touchdown.  The 34-21 Imhotep lead would last into the fourth quarter.

            The Explorers took a solid step forward in the fourth quarter when Levi Hardy collected a 23-yard touchdown pass from Shurmur, reeling it in one-handed in front of Imhotep defenders. The game saw its final score at the 8:36 point in the fourth quarter, in a very telling play. Imhotep had possession on 4th down and 7 from the La Salle 14-yard line, and everyone knew where the ball was going. Even my mother at home knew where the ball was going. All eyes were on DJ Moore and he delivered. To the Explorers’ credit, the defense was obviously prepared for such a play but Moore’s sheer athleticism was difficult to handle. He collected a 26-yard touchdown pass and put his team up 40-28. That score would last us to the end.

            It was a tough night for the La Salle Explorers. But only time can tell what type of team these Explorers will shape up to be. It is only the second week of the season. There is time to revise, to develop, and to win. Here’s to the 2013 La Salle Explorers! As we all know, the night is darkest before the dawn!