Photos/Videos: John Knebels & Ryan Nix
By: John Knebels
PHILADELPHIA – As St. Joseph’s Prep left the field following Saturday’s thoroughly convincing victory over La Salle at Franklin Field, the Hawks loudly celebrated while walking toward their locker room.
When they emerged, a look of seriousness had already manifested in their collective countenance.
Because as enjoyable as was their 35-7 PIAA Class 6A victory over La Salle, that was just a steppingstone for a program that has dominated the state’s largest schools to the tune of three straight state championships. Next up is Northeast High School 6 PM Saturday at Cardinal O’Hara High School, with the winner advancing to the first round of the PIAA Class 6A state tournament.
“This was a great win on so many levels,” said Prep senior quarterback Dane Picariello. “When everyone does their job, there’s a lot to feel good about. But we had to have this game to move on to the next challenge.”
The Hawks (8-2 overall), who after a slow start have won six straight mostly behind a defense that has surrendered only seven touchdowns in their last four games, faced a La Salle team that for the first time in seemingly forever was actually favored to beat the Prep. The Explorers had only lost once and, back on October 2, had defeated the Prep for the first time in six years and ultimately captured the Philadelphia Catholic League Red Division championship for the first time since 2015.
But the Hawks had other ideas.
By the end of the first quarter, the Prep had seized an early 21-0 lead behind a series of huge plays. The first was a 37-yard completion from Picariello to sophomore Brandon Rehmann that set up a seven-yard TD pass from Picariello to sophomore David Washington.
A sack and forced fumble by senior Rocco Nicholl was recovered by junior James Heard and taken to the end zone from four yards out to make it 14-0. Junior Owen Garwood then blocked a punt that was recovered by senior Keenan Nelson at the two-yard line, setting up a two-yard plunge by sophomore Kahseim Phillips that increased the Prep’s lead to 21-0 heading into the second quarter.
The onslaught continued when Phillips (110 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries) bolted 62 yards for a score halfway through the second quarter. Following yet another three and out forced by the Prep defense, Picariello and junior Josiah Trotter executed a perfectly disguised five-yard touchdown pass – Trotter’s first career offensive touchdown. Unbelievably, the Prep was ahead by 35-0 before halftime, establishing a running clock for the remainder of the game.
“It was really fun because of all the hard work we put in,” said Trotter, a first-team All-Catholic linebacker. “We knew we had the right game plan. A lot of people doubted us.”
That was silly.
Neumann-Goretti continued its magical season with an enormously one-sided 62-0 win over Kipp DuBois in the PIAA Class 3A District 12 final.
While winning their ninth straight, the Saints’ defense continued to flourish. They have allowed only 58 points over their last nine games and 25 in their past six. They will take on North Schuylkill High School in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A state tournament 7 PM tonight at Cardinal O’Hara High School.
Once again, N-G’s Marqui Adams was unstoppable. The senior quarterback fired a season-high four touchdown passes, giving him 10 in the past three games. Junior Jayden Sumpter, senior Colton Callueng, and senior Monta Carter each scored twice for the Saints, who held their opponent to less than 100 yards of offense.
Bonner-Prendergast will face Bishop Shanahan in the first round of the PIAA Class 4A state tourney 7 PM tonight at Avon Grove High School. The Friars got there by defeating Bartram, 29-8, for the District 12 crown.
No shock to anyone, it was senior running back Mason Peterson carrying the load. Recently announced as the PCL Blue Division’s Most Valuable Player, Peterson rushed for 247 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. It marked Peterson’s fifth consecutive three-touchdown performance and gave him 24 for the year, along with 1,739 rushing yards.
Also competing in the state tourney is West Catholic. The Burrs (3-7), who last week stunned Conwell-Egan to advance, face a daunting task when they meet undefeated York Catholic (10-0) in a PIAA Class 2A first-round contest 1 PM tomorrow at Cardinal O’Hara.
Yet another Catholic League squad remains alive for a state title run. Father Judge, the only Class 5A program in the PCL, takes on powerful Imhotep 7 PM Saturday at Ramp Playground. The Crusaders enter with a record of 6-4.
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)