PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. – Behind the area on the sidelines where the La Salle College High School football team stood, a weathered penny lie buried into the artificial surface, with the heads side facing upward.
Supposedly, pennies facing heads side up bring good luck. But fate was not ready to yield the Explorers a lucky day.
Bergen Catholic (1-0) got a 306-yard passing effort from field general John Germano and two-time PIAA AAAA state finalist La Salle (1-1) had trouble keeping up with the Crusaders’ speed and spread offensive attack in a humbling 41-17 loss Saturday afternoon at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School.
BC, a 16-time New Jersey football state champion, wasted little time in flashing and dashing its way over, around, and through the La Salle defense en route to 396 yards of offense – mostly through the air – using an up-tempo offense.
“We really always want to play with that type of pace,” said BC head coach Nunzio Campanile. “We’re always trying to keep the opponent on its toes. We want to be certain the other team is as uncomfortable as possible at all times.”
La Salle barely had time to settle in before Bergen began its offensive assault. In just four plays after picking off La Salle’s Matt Magarity, Bergen had a 6-0 lead thanks to a Germano four-yard touchdown run. But the Crusaders were just getting warmed up.
After La Salle went three-and-out, it took three plays for Bergen to find paydirt again. Germano hit J.J. Rulsar for an 87-yard touchdown pass to push the lead to 13-0 and then recovered the ensuing onsides kick. Six plays later, Bergen was in the end zone again on a 15-yard connection from Germano to Charles Wingate.
“They have great speed and quickness,” said La Salle head coach Drew Gordon. “It’s hard to replicate their speed in practice.”
The Explorers seemed to quell the bleeding a little bit with a small rally, slicing the BC lead from 20-0 to 20-9 on a Tim Wade three-yard run and a Ryan Winslow 32-yard field goal. Wade’s touchdown run was one of the few scant highlights on the day. Yards were hard to come by for #33 – in three and a half quarters, he ran for 35 yards on 19 carries.
But any momentum La Salle had built up deflated quicker than a balloon with a hole in it. Winslow’s field goal came with 1:46 left in the half, but that was more than enough time for the Crusaders to break the Explorers’ backs. Beginning at its own 20, the red and gold marched 65 yards in just three plays – all Germano passes – to the La Salle 15. Two plays after an Explorer timeout to stop the bleeding, Bergen lodged the proverbial dagger in the blue and gold’s heart as Germano found John Tsimis from four yards out and a 27-9 lead.
Five plays. Eighty yards. All in a mere 51.8 seconds. Who needs those two-minute drills, anyway?
“Bergen Catholic will test you every play,” Gordon said.
The Crusaders tacked on two more touchdowns in the second half – a James Dawson two-yard run and a 15-yard pass from Germano to Tsimis – to push the advantage to 41-9.
Using its reserves, La Salle capped the game scoring with a one-yard touchdown run by Jared Herrmann with 2:00 left in the contest. Herrmann’s run capped a 12-play, 80-yard, 4:17 march which saw five total first downs and back-up field general Chris Kane connect on all four of his pass attempts.
All told, La Salle finished with 211 yards of offense and 11 first downs. Magarity connected on 11-of-19 passes for 79 yards with the one interception. Wade paced the Explorer ground attack, which finished with 65 yards on 34 carries. Herrmann added 23 yards on seven carries and Kane threw for 57 yards. Sean Coleman caught five passes for 39 yards and Colin Buckley snagged three passes for 44 yards.
Germano’s banner day also saw him add 16 yards on 12 carries. Dawson ran for 22 yards on six carries and Michael Gerst added 27 yards on six totes. Tsimis caught seven passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns and Kulsar added two receptions for 98 yards. Bergen was flagged eight times for 45 yards – about the only negative from the Crusaders’ season opener.