Videos: Zach Reagan & Anthony Salvato
Photos: Quinn Holden, SJP ‘25 (Insta: @quinnsvisuals)
By: Zachary Reagan, SJP ‘23 (Twitter: @zreagan8)
PHILADELPHIA – Last Thursday, the battle for PCL 6A supremacy took place at Cardinal O’Hara High School, as the St. Joseph’s Prep Hawks took the field against the La Salle Explorers. The last time these two teams met on Oct. 8, the Hawks soared to a 40-11 victory at historic Franklin Field. Coming into this game, the 2022 PCL Red champions had not lost a game since their first game of the season; a 48-37 loss to St. Thomas Aquinas (FL), who was a top 10 team in the nation at the time. On the other side, La Salle had just completed a play-in game against Father Judge on Nov. 4, in which the Explorers won 28-7.
While the Hawks were riding a high into last weekend with an undefeated league record, the La Salle Explorers stuck their noses to the grindstone and realized that if they really wanted to win this game, they were going to have to leave everything out on the field. La Salle had lost a bevy of talented seniors to graduation, like running back Sam Brown (now at Rutgers) and linebacker Abdul Carter (now at Penn State). The Explorers went from arguably a top five team in the state to out of the top 50. The Explorers were determined to not let rankings define their season, and when it was all said and done, La Salle had St. Joe’s Prep stumbling more than the Hawks would’ve liked.
However, St. Joseph’s Prep was able to pull this game out in a 21-13 victory, but in the eyes of a Prep fan, messy would be the best way to describe the Hawk’s performance.
“They (La Salle) came out here and had a great game-plan and came out here and fought and that’s what you like to see against your opponent. But we came out with the “W” and we came out here and get an extra week so that’s the good part about it,” said St. Joseph’s Prep senior linebacker, Josiah Trotter.
This one was riddled with penalties, muffed punts and some questionable play calls on both sides. The Hawks were quick to put up seven points, thanks to a 60-yard touchdown run from the running back Kahseim Phillips on the second play of the game. After some uneventful drives from both teams, marked by sacks from the Prep’s Sean McNulty and Nick McGlynn, the Prep finally got another drive going late in the first quarter. St. Joseph’s Prep receiver David Washington took a 5-yard hitch route an extra 20, making several La Salle defenders miss in the process.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, this drive wouldn’t end in a score, but rather a blocked punt. After a couple of pass interference penalties on the Prep, La Salle took advantage of their field positioning and punched in their first score, with La Salle senior receiver Nole Henry being found on his out route, effectively tying up the game.
The Hawks struck right back on their next drive, though. After taking advantage of a stellar rushing attack that the Hawks have been relying on all season, junior quarterback Samaj Jones leapt over the pile at the one-yard line, making it a 14-7 game at half.
In the third quarter, it looked like more of the same from the Prep. After a couple more three and out drives, the Hawks cruised down the field via the rushing attack yet again, with Jones taking in his second rushing touchdown of the game from 10 yards out.
When the score was 21-7 in the third quarter, many people would’ve assumed La Salle might just roll over and accept that their PIAA playoff hopes were dead. They did just the opposite, however. After taking advantage of a muffed punt paired with a subsequent offsides penalty from the Prep, the Explorers were able to get to the one-yard line and fullback John McSorley was able to jam the ball right in the end zone.
The Hawks blocked the extra point though, which meant it was a 21-13 game heading into the final minutes. A final fourth down stop from the Hawks sealed the game, and after a couple of kneels in victory formation, the chance to compete for another 6A state championship is close in grasp.
The Hawks faced a lot of adversity during the game, and head coach Tim Roken prided his team on finishing the game off strong.
“You have to appreciate the wins when you get them, and I’m grateful that we get to stay together another week to keep this thing going,” said Roken.
If the Hawks plan on going any further, they first have to defeat Northeast High School on their home turf this Saturday at 12 p.m. Winner takes home the District 12 6A title and will advance to play in the PIAA 6A state tournament.