By John Knebels

Sports columnist

La Salle College High School wasn’t only the top team in the Catholic League last year. The Explorers were the top team in the state.

Their only stumble during an unbelievable 14-1 run was against rival St. Joseph’s Prep, which they later defeated in the league title game. So what now?

“Last year was great,” said senior Jamal Abdur-Rahman, who contributed 1,201 yards rushing, 370 receiving and 20 touchdowns. “It’s something that none of us will ever forget.”

While Abdur-Rahman and returning All-Catholics Kevin Forster, Cameron Cappo and junior Tim Wade hope to defend their supremacy, they will have some rugged challenges to overcome in the Class AAAA spanision.

First among them is arguably St. Joseph’s Prep, now coached by Gabe Infante. When the Hawks altered their leadership, some understandably wondered what effect it would have on the program.

Senior wide receiver and defensive back Paul McGann was confident from the jump that the Hawks would emerge as strong as ever.

“Once Coach (Infante) and his staff arrived, there was a new energy and passion. The change, although at times difficult and stressful, has ultimately brought us closer,” he said.

Two non-league contests for each team are already in the books. Here is a brief summary of what occurred:

The early favorite La Salle stunned North Penn 27-14 behind quarterback Matt Magarity’s three touchdown passes, a pair to sophomore Sean Coleman Sept. 3. This past week, the Explorers dropped a heartbreaking 22-21 decision to New Jersey stronghold Bergen Catholic.

St. Joseph’s Prep began the season by defeating Public League juggernaut George Washington, 36-25 Sept. 4, as junior quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg rushed for two touchdowns and fired three more through the air, including two to McGann. They then lost Sept. 11 to highly ranked St. Peter’s Prep from Rutgers, N.J.

Roman Catholic is off to a furious start, defeating both West Catholic and Malvern Prep in relatively convincing fashion. Against Malvern Sept. 11, the sophomore tandem of quarterback Michael Keir and wideout William Fuller befuddled the Friars when they connected for three scores.

In undefeated Father Judge’s two victories, two-way player Raul Quinones rushed for a combined 217 yards, scored two touchdowns and grabbed an interception. Junior Anthony Walker has added two picks.

For Archbishop Ryan (1-1), Marcus Allen rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in a 27-14 win over Wissahickon, while junior teammate Nick Levan caught two touchdown passes from junior Mike Anusky.

In the AAA, Archbishop Wood has outscored its opposition by a combined 80-35. Junior Desmon Peoples, a transfer from St. Joseph’s Prep, has amassed 228 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries, while junior Brandon Peoples has rushed for two scores and added another on an interception return. Quarterback Joey Monaghan has already thrown five TD passes.

It wouldn’t be overly surprising if the Vikings remained undefeated until the last week of the regular season, when they meet another AAA team that also might possess a perfect slate – Cardinal O’Hara.

The Lions are 2-0 and have not surrendered a point so far. Adam Dempsey (214 yards) and Brendan McLaughlin (152) have highlighted a torrid running game that has accounted for six of the team’s eight touchdowns.

Archbishop Carroll has also displayed a powerful running attack in its two lopsided victories by a combined score of 75-13. Junior quarterback Jalal Timmons leads the team with 164 rushing yards and has found the end zone five times. Teammate Julian Franklin has contributed 157 yards on only 21 carries, and junior Jake Peabody has added 111 yards and a touchdown.

In a 20-9 opening-season win over neighborhood rival Upper Darby, Monsignor Bonner (1-1) received three rushing touchdowns from quarterback Sean Quarterman while three different players intercepted a pass.

Neumann-Goretti bounced back from a one-point loss in its opener against neighborhood foe Furness to down Boys’ Latin 30-6. The Saints, who visit O’Hara this weekend, are led by Justin Rey (168 yards rushing, two touchdowns) and junior Antwoine Powers (133, one).

West Catholic (1-1) can throw the ball behind quarterback Anthony Reid or run it behind seniors Brandon Hollomon (107 yards in a 23-14 loss to Roman Catholic) and Josh Mathis (98 in a 27-6 win over Bonner).

For Lansdale Catholic (1-1), Tyler Smith scored twice in a 28-26, week-one triumph over Perkiomen Valley. Senior Alex Hetzel has an interception in both games.

In its season-opening win over Lower Moreland, Bishop McDevitt enjoyed an eye-opening performance by Gary Postell. The senior rushed for 273 yards and a career-best five touchdowns on a miserly 12 carries. In a loss at Cheltenham the following week, Postell gained 92 yards and a touchdown only eight carries.

For Conwell-Egan (0-2), senior quarterback John Clark and classmate Kyle Bonner have featured the offense.

John Knebels can be reached at