Special to The CS&T
Sports officials are not perfect, and they don’t pretend to be. It is understandable when a call or two is made a bit differently than how it looked to the naked eye.
Then there are some games when you find yourself constantly shaking your head in a combination of confusion and disbelief.
So when many of the players on La Salle College High School’s football team maintained their sense of poise both during and after their PIAA Class AAAA state quarterfinal contest Dec. 5 in Bethlehem, Pa., it was a testament to their overall level of maturity.
The District 12 champion Explorers won the game over District 1 representative Easton High School 17-14, but to truly understand how they survived, one had to be there.
“This was a great game to be a part of,” said a jubilant and relieved La Salle senior end Steve Sinnott, who led all defenders with nine tackles, though he was only one of many Explorers who completely shut down the Easton offense after the first quarter.
“We got behind, but we found a way to win and that’s what’s most important.”
Indeed. The Explorers fell behind 14-0 and the swirling, steady snowfall that blanketed most of the field promised to take a major bite out of their vaunted passing game. Then there were some, um, questionable calls that did not go in their favor.
Like the holding penalties (only on La Salle; there were none called on Easton),including one that eliminated a potentially momentum-turning 31-yard gain. Or a late roughing the punter call that, after the game, even the punter admitted he had made no real attempt at kicking the ball and was thus pleasantly stunned when he saw the yellow flag in his team’s favor.
Down 14-0 in the second quarter, the Explorers cut their deficit in half on a 17-yard touchdown run by Drew Loughery. Then they tied the game with 7:10 left in the half when Loughery hit tight end Steve Jones with a five-yard scoring pass. The score was set up by La Salle’s Steve Szostak recovering a fumble at the Easton 21-yard line.
With the game tied 14-14 and 53 seconds left in the third quarter, always-reliable kicker Mike Bennett nailed a 35-yard field goal to provide what proved to be the winning points. Late in the fourth quarter, Easton (13-2) advanced to the La Salle 19, but an interception by Jamal Abdur-Rahman (17 rushes for 62 yards on offense) sealed the victory.
Easton coach Steve Shiffert emerged very impressed with the Explorers.
“You have to give (La Salle) a lot of credit,” he said. “They just really took it to us up front and we were unable to get anything going on offense.”
That was partly explained by La Salle’s ability to maintain possession thanks to an efficient running game that included 62 yards on 17 rushes by Abdur-Rahman, 33 on seven by Tim Wade, 41 on six by Sam Feleccia and 40 more on seven scrambles by Loughery.
The Explorers will now face Ridley High School in the state semis at 1 p.m. Saturday at Northeast High, the same venue where they defeated St. Joseph’s Prep for the Catholic League crown last month. The 13-1 Green Raiders are coming off a stunning upset of powerhouse North Penn.
The officiating crew will be different. And under the circumstances, that has to be considered a good thing.
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.