Week of Oct. 12, 2012
1. St. Joseph’s Prep (Record: 5-0. Previous Week: 1. Weeks Rated: 5.)
2. La Salle (Record: 6-0. Previous Week: 2. Weeks Rated: 7.)
3. Downingtown East (Record: 6-0. Previous Week: 3. Weeks Rated: 7.)
4. Central Bucks South (Record: 6-0. Previous Week: 6. Weeks Rated: 6.)
5. Archbishop Wood (Record: 4-2. Previous Week: 4. Weeks Rated: 7.)
6. Imhotep Charter (Record: 6-0. Previous Week: 6. Weeks Rated: 7.)
7. Ridley (Record: 6-0. Previous Week: 8. Weeks Rated: 2.)
8. Coatesville (Record: 4-2. Previous Week: 9. Weeks Rated: 2.)
9. Episcopal Academy (Record: 5-0. Previous Week: 10. Weeks Rated: 2.)
10. North Penn (Record: 3-3. Previous Week: 5. Weeks Rated: 7.)
By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Mike Eife, like the rest of his La Salle teammates, has been waiting for this. But for Eife, this Saturday’s Philadelphia Catholic League showdown with undefeated, nationally ranked St. Joseph’s Prep at 7 p.m. at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School, carries a little more impact.
Eife, the Explorer’s 5-foot-7, 195-pound senior sparkplug linebacker, has never faced Prep, La Salle’s archrival which is ranked No. 25 by CBS/MaxPreps. The two-year starter was hurt his sophomore year and recovering from a concussion last year when the Explorers played the Prep.
But Eife, like the rest of his La Salle teammates, are fully aware of what’s at stake. The four-time Catholic League Class AAAA champion Explorers have a 21-game league winning streak, including playoffs. Prep, incidentally, was the last Catholic League team to beat the Explorers, 24-17 back on September 26, 2009. Since then, La Salle has gone 36-4 including making history as the first Philadelphia Catholic League team to win a PIAA state football championship (in 2009, winning the PIAA Class AAAA. It should be noted the Philadelphia Catholic League did not enter PIAA play until the 2008-09 season).
The difference is this game Saturday night poses the biggest threat of seeing that streak tumble. Prep is 5-0, La Salle is 6-0. Prep has played the tougher schedule; La Salle has outscored its opponents by a combined 199-to-46, winning by an average of 33.1 to 7, permitting only one opponent to reach double figures.
La Salle is the more experienced team, with a stubborn 4-4 defense, the hub of which is linebackers Eife, Trent Simmons, Zaire Franklin, Andrew Eidenshink, and an explosive offense led by receivers Sean Coleman, Jared Herrmann and Jimmy Herron and quarterback Chris Kane, who hasn’t thrown an interception, completing 82 of 123 passes.
“I’ll be honest, I’ve been looking forward to playing this game,” Eife said. “I was hurt my sophomore and junior years against Prep. It will be the first time for me personally playing against Prep. I can’t wait to play them. They’ve been on my mind. They have been our rivals for a long time. There is a lot of respect for both teams. But I’m not going to lie, I get a little fired up playing these guys, and I have a feeling they get a little fired up for us. For me personally, it means a lot.”
Eife’s biggest concern is Prep’s ability to continue running after an initial hit. Prep had mauled teams with its running game. Hawk runners picked up 50 yards after first contact in its 23-10 victory over Archbishop Wood last weekend.
Defensively, Prep poses a variety of problems for an offense. Hawks’ sophomore defensive back John Reid is a star, and there is a likelihood he’ll be matched up against Coleman.
“They have a lot of speed at linebacker and defensive back, they switch looks a lot, and that can be confusing,” said Kane, a 6-foot, 220-pound senior who’s a converted tight end. “We see Reid matching up with Sean, but we have Jimmy Herron on the other side. He’s just as good and he’s also a threat at the wildcat.
“We don’t like each other, but there is definitely respect there. Prep is definitely a lot better and a lot different. They play with high energy. I think we’re going to learn how good we actually are—and more than likely, we’ll see other again. We’ll know what we’ll have to fix. We’re not really a team that holds things back. We’ll gauge the game and adjust things from there. It’s going tobe a great game. It will be the biggest game I’ve played in so far.”
Game of the Week
La Salle (6-0) at St. Joseph’s Prep (5-0), 7 p.m. Saturday, at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School: Was there any doubt? The titanic battle, Round I, may be like a feel-out first round in a boxing match. Neither team may be willing to show much, since there is a very strong possibility there will be a Round II when Prep and La Salle play again for the Catholic League Class AAAA championship later this season.
Prep coach Gabe Infante and La Salle coach Drew Gordon are too smart to show their hands. It still doesn’t mean the capacity crowd that will surely surround Plymouth-Whitemarsh Saturday night won’t see an exciting game. It may mean more, however, to Prep, which is a young team still improving. The Hawks relish the chance to snap La Salle’s 21-game Catholic League winning streak.
“They don’t make mistakes; they’re extremely disciplined and well coached,” Infante said about La Salle. “When you look at them on tape, you don’t see weaknesses. They’re sound in their kicking game. They always line up right—you watch them, you know why they win. They’re always in the right place, which is a credit to Coach Gordon and their disciplined kids. Their passing game is exceptional. Their receivers do a great job of running for one another in creating space. It will be a great game.”
Here’s a lean toward Prep’s speed. La Salle may have issues dealing with it live the first time. Because the way these two teams are playing, there probably will be a second—and more important—meeting later in November with a chance to play for a state title at stake.
Prediction: St. Joe’s Prep 17, La Salle 14
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.