By Mike Prince
For Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/23/12
When Matt Rambo limped off the field just under three minutes into the game, seconds after scoring La Salle’s first goal of the contest, the star junior knew that nothing – not even an injury – was going to stop him from getting back on the field.
Rambo, who hurt his ankle and got the wind knocked out of him, got right back in the game and went on to score four more goals to help lead the Explorers to an 8-7 win over St. Joseph’s Prep in the Philadelphia Catholic League title game at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School on Wednesday night.
In what was the 10th consecutive PCL championship meeting between the two teams, La Salle (16-4) was able to come out victorious for the eighth time during that span, avenging last year’s 8-6 loss to the Hawks – after seven straight title for La Salle.
“Absolutely, that game was still in our minds,” La Salle coach Bill Leahy said. “We had that title for a pretty long time – 18 out of 21 years now – so yea, it was still there.”
La Salle will take on Northeast High in the District 12 title game at the Germantown Supersite on Thursday at 4:45 p.m. The winner heads to the state tournament.
After the start of the game was delayed 57 minutes due to lightning, it actually looked like the Hawks (13-7) might pull the upset yet again, taking a 4-1 lead over La Salle just five minutes into the game.
But then Rambo and Jeff Cimbalista took over, helping La Salle to score the final five goals of the half while putting the Explorers up 7-4 after two quarters of play.
“Prep had a fast start,” Leahy said. “They really played a nice game, switched up a lot of defenses and gave us a lot of different looks.
“It was a really impressive effort by the Prep, but after the tough start, our defense really settled down and part of that was our offense holding the ball and winning some face-offs. It really wasn’t a consistent game for either team.”
La Salle’s defense didn’t allow the Prep to score a single goal for 28 minutes and 55 seconds between the first and the third quarters, but the Hawks eventually crept back into the game thanks in large part to the play of Pat Walsh.
Walsh, who scored the Hawks’ second goal of the game, scored three times in the second half to bring SJP back to within a goal, but time ran out on the Hawks’ season, as La Salle goalkeeper Corey Shaffer made his 11th and final save of the game in the final seconds.
“I have to just commend La Salle,” Prep coach Eric Gregg said. “The credit goes to them and hats off to their coach and team.
“They have two phenomenal players in (Matt) Rambo and Sean Coleman and I thought that (Corey) Shaffer and Casey Eidenshink just had an outstanding night. They are two classy players who really stepped up their game tonight.”
The Hawks were led by Walsh’s four goals, while Anthony Marini added two. Joe Walsh scored once and finished with two groundballs, while SJP goalkeeper A.J. Simon stopped 10 shots in net.
“We’re a young team,” Gregg said. “I’m just really proud of the youth stepping up and despite the loss, we’re on the way up. We’re a young team and we’re going to be back here next year to try and knock off the defending champion Explorers.”
Cimbalista finished with two goals and an assist, while the Explorers also got one goal from Brian McNamara. But it was Rambo, who finished with five goals, two groundballs and led the game in shots on goal, who was the story of the game.
“He played like a big boy today,” Leahy said. “He played awfully well.”
Rambo, who transferred from Abington after his freshman season, enjoyed what was his first championship game win of any kind at the high school level.
“This is great,” he said. “This is my first real championship in high school, since we didn’t have a game like this at Abington.
“It just feels awesome, especially with the tradition here at La Salle. It feels awesome to bring it back home to La Salle and to see everyone so happy is great. When I got hit, I knew I was coming back in this game no matter what. I knew I would fight through the pain and there was no way I was going to the ground and not finishing this game. And this just feels awesome right now.”
La Salle 8, St. Joseph’s Prep 7
St. Joe’s Prep 4-0-1-2 – 7
La Salle 3-4-0-1—8
St. Joe’s Prep
Pat Walsh: 4 goals
Anthony Marini: 2 goals
Joe Walsh: 1 goal
Goalie A.J. Simon: 10 saves
Matt Rambo: 5 goals
Jeff Cimbalista: 2 goals, 1 assist
Brian McNamara: 1 goal
Goalie Corey Shaffer: 11 saves