The St. Joe’s Prep Hawks moved in sole possession of first place in the Philadelphia Catholic League on Friday night with a 28-14 victory over the La Salle College Explorers.
In a matchup worthy of its primetime billing, the two teams came in with undefeated records in league play and seemed evenly matched throughout the first half.
After forcing St. Joe’s to go three and out on the opening possession of the game, La Salle senior quarterback Danny Solecki drove the Explorers down to the Hawks 3-yard line. On a designed quarterback run, Solecki appeared to be stopped a yard short, but was able to reach out and extend the ball over the goal line and give the Explorers an early 7-0 lead.
La Salle’s defense carried the momentum into the next possession as they again forced the Hawks to punt.
On their next possession, the Explorers were able to the move the ball down the field again and threatened to add to their lead after senior fullback Joey Burnham broke free for a 24-yard run and was brought down at the St. Joe’s 13-yard line.
With the defense forcing St. Joe’s potent offense to punt on their first two possessions, and an offense that was moving the ball effectively and threatening to score again, it appeared La Salle was in control.
That was the case until three plays later when on third down Solecki was intercepted by senior Dejuan Dandridge, who returned it 73 yards to give the Hawks prime field position and all the momentum.
St. Joe’s Prep wasted no time as senior quarterback Marquez McCray connected with senior wide receiver Brandon Sanders for a 16-yard touchdown pass to tie the game early in the second quarter.
The teams traded punts for the rest of the first half and went into the locker room tied 7-7 at halftime.
La Salle’s offense came out, now unable to move the ball, and was forced to punt on their first possession of the second half. Conversely, St. Joe’s Prep came out on fire. On their first offensive play of the third quarter, McCray hit senior wide receiver James Cherry on a 45-yard pass to set up first and goal at the 1-yard line.
After being stuffed at the line twice by the Explorers defense on first and second down, the Hawks ran a toss sweep to the outside where sophomore running back Kolbe Burrell easily ran in for the touchdown to give St. Joe’s Prep their first lead of the night.
The Hawks further extended their lead just a few minutes later when junior running back Marques Mason broke free for a 59-yard touchdown run to make it 21-7.
Heading into the fourth quarter, La Salle continued to struggle offensively after their once promising start. St. Joe’s Prep did not let up offensively and opened the final quarter with a 45-yard touchdown run by McCray to make it 28-7.
La Salle added a late touchdown when Solecki hit senior wide receiver Troy Holland for an 8-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to make it a two score game, but St. Joe’s Prep was able to run out the clock and secure a huge 28-14 victory.
McCray accounted for 185 yards of total offense for the Hawks, 128 through the air and another 57 on the ground. For the Explorers, Burnham finished with a game high 104 yards rushing.
La Salle falls into a tie for second place in the Catholic League with the Vikings of Archbishop Wood. Both schools are 4-1 in league play and 6-2 overall. The Explorers will look to break that tie next week when they host the Vikings.
St. Joe’s Prep will try to continue their undefeated season and dominance of the Catholic League next week when they travel to Archbishop Ryan.