Philadelphia, Pa., In a battle of two of the best defensive teams in the state the LaSalle Explorers outlasted the Easton Red Rovers 19-7 in a AAAA state quarterfinal game yesterday at Northeast High’s Charles Martin stadium.
LaSalle got on the board first on their first possession driving down to the Rover 15 before settling for a Ryan Winslow 32 yard Field goal and a 3-0 lead.
In the second quarter Easton generated a 15 play eight minute drive that ended with Senior Quarterback Justin Pacchioli’s eight yard touchdown pass to Tyler Holjis to give Easton the lead. In the drive Pacchioli connected on four passes plus two runs for 14 yards. His scrambling ability (especially on the touchdown) gave the Explorers fits in the early going. Easton’s stingy defense caused a LaSalle three and out on their last offensive possession of the half and an Easton 7-3 lead.
LaSalle finally got things going on their first second half possession with a nine play drive that culminated with a Junior Quarterback Matt Magarity’s one yard touchdown plunge and a lead they would not relinquish. On the drive, Villanova bound Jamal Abdur-Rahman totaled 54 of the yards receiving and running. It also appeared that the Explorer offensive line was finally getting on track with their drive blocking.
In the fourth quarter another Winslow field goal (this one from 32) gave LaSalle a 13-7 lead. With the ball on their 34 yard line with 2:23 remaining a Pacchioli pass was intercepted by Rahman who brought it back for a 37 yard touchdown and the final nail in the coffin.
For as great as LaSalle’s victory was, nothing can be taken away from the effort that Easton gave on this day. “We knew Easton had one of the best defenses around” said LaSalle coach Drew Gordon. “They took us out of our game in the first half. You’re not going to win many games when you run 17 offensive plays in a half.” Gordon was equally impressed with Pacchioli. “Our guys were right there to get him while he was in the pocket but he kept eluding our pressure. The touchdown pass he threw (to Holjis) while under pressure was huge”.
Asked what he told his team in the locker room while behind at halftime Gordon quipped “they needed to pick up the intensity, plain and simple. We were not wrapping up on our tackling and they were taking us out of our game”. As for Rahman, “he makes big plays at big times. He’s done that for us all year”.
LaSalle (the District 12 champ) improves to 12-1 and has a date looming next week with District 1 champ North Penn and for the right to play in the state championship the following week at Hershey. Easton (the District 11 champion) finished their season at 13-3.