Plymouth Meeting, Pa., Joe Nagi’s tip of a Corey Ernst screen pass and Ryan Geiger’s interception with under two minutes remaining on the LaSalle Explorers 43 yard line, stunted a potential game winning drive by District 1champ North Penn giving the District 12 champs a thrilling victory, the AAAA eastern championship and a date next week in Hershey vs. North Allegheny for the state title.
This game featured seven lead changes and offensive explosions, both passing and running by some great skill players that made this game, one for the ages.
The Knights took eight plays in their first possession and scored on a Dominic Taggart one yard touchdown run. The North Penn offensive line appeared to have some control up front. LaSalle answered immediately with their own seven play drive including two Explorer quarterback Matt Magarity completions for 62 yards and was culminated with a Jamal Abdur-Rahman two yard TD burst and a tie at seven. Two plays later Ernst hit TE Ralph Reeves for a 55 yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead for North Penn.
As the second quarter started the defending state champs then went on a long, extended drive eclipsing almost five minutes and some nifty running and passing by Magarity (4-6, 42 yards in the drive) and ending with a Magarity to Tim Wade two yard touchdown pass and a tie at 14. North Penn’s Brandon Mercer then fumbled the ensuing kickoff and LaSalle recovered at the Knight 24. The Explorers could only get to the seven yard line and had to settle for a Ryan Winslow 24 yard field goal and a LaSalle 17-14 lead.
The Knights then buckled down and executed a 10 play, 82 yard drive with Taggart doing the majority of the running and he took it in again from the one and now a Knight 21-17 lead that they took into the locker room at halftime.
LaSalle came into the game dominating in about every second half of games they have played, but North Penn has had their success in this area as well. LaSalle retook the lead in only two plays and Rahman scored from the two. North Penn immediately answered yet again on their next drive. They pounded Taggart behind their huge line, anchored by center T.J. Smink. Six runs from Taggart mixed in with a Ernst to Reeves 37 yard completion got the ball down to the seven yard line. Taggart then scored his third TD of the afternoon on the next play and another lead change.
Down 35-31 with just over four minutes to play, LaSalle did what they have done all season in tight games; go with the big gun, Rahman. The Villanova recruit compiled 33 yards in their final possession. Then Magarity hit sophomore standout receiver Sean Coleman with a great pitch and catch and a 25 yard touchdown putting the Explorers up 38-35.
In the Knights final possession they executed a critical fourth down conversion on a30 yard pass completion from Ernst to a wide open Gerard Wendowski. With a little over a minute remaining and the ball on the LaSalle 43, Nagi and Geiger performed their magic on North Penn’s next play.
LaSalle coach Drew Gordon was awed by the Knights effort.”Was this a great game or what? This is what championship high school football should be all about. This team took us out of our game constantly. I am so proud of our guys for finding a way to win this game” Gordon was equally impressed with Magarity who finished the day 10 of 19 passing for 182 yards. “We haven’t given Matt a lot of chances to throw this year and he really came through today when we needed it. He handled the pressure well”
Rahman ran for 140 yards on 21 carries, three touchdowns and played an outstanding game in the defensive backfield as well as kick and punt returns. Coleman, who excels as a star lacrosse player made some big time grabs in traffic. For North Penn, (with feature back Ted Needhammer playing very little due to an ankle issue), Taggart carried the load scoring four touchdowns and running for 140 yards.