SPRINGFIELD >> Down by three points entering the fourth quarter, La Salle looked to its defense to keep getting stops, asked its offense to keep on grinding, and wanted to simply get Sam Brown the ball a couple more times.
Actually, all it took was one more time.
“It was a toss so I cut it out,” Brown said of his first carry of the final quarter. “Tim Mehlmann, our fullback, made a good block, and I read off his left side and cut it upfield.”
Seventy-three yards later, Brown was in the end zone and the Explorers were in front for good. La Salle overcame a short-lived deficit to win going away, 24-13 over Malvern Prep in a non-league battle Saturday afternoon at packed Springfield Montco.
“Malvern’s a really good team,” Brown said. “We started out kinda slow but our defense was stopping them. We weren’t able to score but we picked it up in the second half. Our coaches talked to us and we knew what we had to do.”
Brown carried the ball 25 times for 150 yards, including his 73-yard burst.
He also plugged away on the ensuing Explorer drive, helping to set up the clinching score, a two-yard rush by Brad Vespe that made it 24-13 with 6 minutes, 29 seconds remaining.
La Salle’s defense, solid throughout, forced a fumble on the next Malvern possession and later ended the game with its fourth sack of the contest, as Jalyl Dawkins corralled Bryce Pippin.
Pippin was impressive despite the loss, hitting Kellen Mathias on a 53-yard strike that set up the go-ahead score late in the third.
Pippin plunged in from a yard out to make it 13-10.
“I remember pushing Bryce into the end zone,” running back Caimin Hayes said. “Bryce played his heart out, in his first varsity start. For him to come out under all that pressure and perform the way he did and not let the few mistakes get to him, I’m really happy for him.
“It felt great to see him in that end zone and see him that excited.”
The Friars’ (0-2) other touchdown came when an interception and long return by Hayes set up an eight-yard TD run by Steven Rose Jr., cutting the deficit to 7-6.
La Salle (3-0), which had gone up 7-0 on a 39-yard Jack Machita-to-Brown connection, led 10-6 at the half. The Friars, despite having just 14 offensive plays in the opening half, were hanging in.
“We really put up a battle and we were happy about that, regardless of the outcome,” Hayes said. “It was a tough loss but, talking to the guys after the game, we were talking about keeping our heads up high. We fought our hearts out and there’s not much more you can ask out of a team.
“We wanted to come in here and really prove that we are a team,” he said, “because last week (in a loss to McDonough School of Maryland), we felt like we didn’t put our best foot forward. So I think after this game, teams are gonna look at us and be like, ‘okay, they had one bad showing but they really are a legit team.’”