By: John Knebels
Photos: Kathy Leister
PHILADELPHIA – As St. Joseph’s Prep left the field after overwhelming rival La Salle in the PIAA Class 6A Catholic League final November 9 at the Germantown Supersite, the Hawks were smiling and laughing and having a well-deserved good time.
When the Hawks awakened the next morning, their 52-7 win was in the distant past. It was time to focus on their next opponent, dangerous Northeast High School, which will host the District 12 championship 6:00 on November 16.
When a program is in pursuit of snaring its fifth state championship in seven years, there is no rest for the weary.
“Any game we win, we always have that night to celebrate,” said senior Anthony Leneghan. “The next day is when we move on from the win, watch film, and start to prepare for the next week.”
There was a time when a 45-point domination of La Salle would be major news. The Prep, however, hasn’t lost to a Catholic League foe since 2015. In this latest triumph, the Hawks (8-2) stunned the Explorers (8-3) by scoring 31 points in the first quarter.
Early in the second, the Prep increased its lead to 38-0 on the third of four touchdown connections from junior quarterback Kyle McCord to junior Marvin Harrison, both of whom will attend Ohio State University two years from now. Exercising the “mercy rule” when a team builds a lead of 35 points, the clock was only stopped for change of possession or an official’s time out.
“Even a win like this, beating a team like La Salle like we did, we treated it the same as any other win because we have a new challenge ahead of us to prepare for,” said Leneghan. “That is our way of accomplishing our goals.”
Harrison, who finished with six catches for 222 yards and touchdown grabs of 48, 64, 81, and 10 yards, said he wasn’t upset when numerous reserve Hawks were summoned before halftime and played the remainder of the game.
“It’s good for those guys to get playing time,” said Harrison. “I don’t care about how many touchdowns I score. The only thing that matters is getting the win.”
Although the Prep accrued monstrous statistics and certainly could have engineered more points behind McCord (13 of 21 for 322 yards and five touchdowns), the defense played a major part of their victory, holding the Explorers scoreless before a late touchdown in the fourth quarter.
While the front line thwarted La Salle’s running game, the Prep’s secondary stuck close to Explorer regardless of the escalating score.
Junior cornerback Zavier Atkins and junior safety Dave Watson, who both acknowledged the mentorship of secondary coach Keita Crespina, were particularly effective.
“Get the ball back to the offense and keep scoring,” said Atkins, explaining the defense’s game plan. “The whole game. Running to the ball . . . getting to the ball . . . tackling. Get the ball back to the offense.”
Like Atkins, Watson extolled the Prep receivers for working them so hard at every practice.
“They were torching us the whole practice,” said Watson. “We were getting beat up. Their effort at practice gets us better as a defense.”
Although they have not played a team the likes of the Prep, Northeast has been a major force. The Public League champion is 11-1 with six shutout wins. The Vikings have surrendered only 57 points.