John Knebels
Sports Columnist

Roman Catholic High School has a very good football team.

La Salle College High School has an even better one.

So, after the Explorers defeated the Cahillites 35-16 in the Catholic League spanision AAAA championship Nov. 12 at Northeast High School, the post-game analysis was less an indictment against Roman and more of a tribute to La Salle.

“Roman is a very good team,” said La Salle coach Drew Gordon. “We knew we would have our hands full.”

That the Explorers did; at least early on. {{more}}

After a sack by senior Corey Bronson gave Roman a 2-0 lead, La Salle responded on a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Matt Magarity, who was playing in his first game since suffering a concussion nearly six weeks ago, and led 7-2 after one quarter.

The Cahillites stunned the defending state champions by scoring two touchdowns in the second quarter – the first on a 14-yard touchdown run by junior Marcus Kelly, the second on an eight-yard fumble return by senior defensive end Jack Gallagher.

Suddenly, the Cahillites led 16-7, and the Roman Catholic faithful shouted its collective appreciation.

“That’s not where we wanted to be,” said La Salle star senior tailback Jamal Abdur-Rahman. “We didn’t come out as strong as we should have.”

But with this program, which coming into the game has won the last two and three of the past four Catholic League championships, a nine-point deficit with more than two quarters remaining is not something to be overly concerned about.

Like someone who just woke up to catch a flight in the nick of time, the Explorers quickly took over the remainder of the contest. Abdul-Rahman scored on a one-yard run before halftime, and then added a nine-yard scoring jaunt in the third quarter to put the Explorers ahead.

Sophomore Sean Coleman increased La Salle’s lead to 28-16 on a 24-yard bolt, and Abdur-Rahman capped off the scoring on a pretty 29-yard haul in the fourth quarter to finish with 173 yards on 28 carries.

La Salle, once again, was the Catholic League Class AAAA champion.

On Saturday at noon, the Explorers (10-1) will face recently-crowned Public League champion Northeast High (8-2) in the District 12 championship at Northeast’s home stadium. The winner will advance to the state tournament.

While capturing a second straight state title is obviously La Salle’s goal, the players wanted to bask in their latest accomplishment instead of thinking a week ahead.

“This is what you play for,” said senior safety and wide receiver Kevin Forster, a University of Maryland-bound lacrosse star who snared two of La Salle’s three interceptions and did a fantastic job replacing Magarity at quarterback since the eighth week of the season after his concussion. “This feels great. Winning three straight is unbelievable.”

A few weeks from now, Magarity is hoping to say “winning two straight is unbelievable.”

John Knebels can be reached at