La Salle's o-line plays it smart on, off the field

Posted: September 25, 2012

PERHAPS the best part of being a teenager is exchanging chop-busting banter.

Exhibit A could be experienced Tuesday at La Salle High, shortly before coach Drew Gordon blew a whistle to signal the start of football practice.

In the south end zone, having their photo snapped by Daily News lensman David Maialetti, flexing their muscles and lookin' all hard-guyish, were five members of the offensive-line rotation. Grouped near the 50 were the linebackers, and it didn't take long for the pithy comments to come flying downfield.

Finally, with the hint of a smile, center Conor Resch couldn't help but reply.

"Leave us alone!" he hollered. "We're just trying to live our lives!"

He could have added, " . . . in well-rounded fashion."

When it comes to classroom work, La Salle's path-clearers have no mental blocks.

Pretty much everyone is an academic whiz, and tackle Luke Persichetti sounded almost embarrassed upon noting his grade-point average is only 3.9. Get this, though: He just received word he's a National Merit Scholarship finalist.

"Yup, and I'm hearing about that from the guys," he said, "since I'm the only football player."

Although receiver Sean Coleman is the lone veteran headliner among the skills guys, the Explorers' offense is again creating waves. In four games, it has produced 15 touchdowns and three field goals, and much of the credit goes to the grunts.

And if someone wanted to break out fancy words to describe their contributions, they'd understand every last one.

"I'd like to think we're smarter than people give [linemen] credit for," Persichetti said.

In last week's 38-6 success vs. Malvern Prep, the Fab Five were Resch, guards Andrew Carlone and David Losier, and tackles Patrick Hoffman and Persichetti. Carlone missed Tuesday's practice because of illness, but Tom Spiteri was back from same. David Geppert (hip) and Bill Frusco (shoulder) started earlier games at center before yielding to injury.

Like some of the others, Persichetti, a 6-foot, 230-pound center, also plays defense. When asked which side of the ball he prefers, he let out a long "pheeewww" and then cracked, "I feel like I'll get in trouble if I answer that question."

Then he did, in semi-coy fashion.

"They both have their pluses and minuses," he said. "I like offense a lot. I feel like we have to play more as a unit over there. On defense, though, it's cool to make tackles and get sacks. More likely to get your name in the paper."

Hoffman leaned a shade harder to O.

"I like playing on that line more, because of the teamwork it takes," he said. "You get more of that well-oiled-machine feel. Like coach Dom [D'Addona, line guru] always says, 'If one spoke in the wheel is messed up . . . ' You have to know what you're doing, but also what the guys to your left and right are doing. You have to be one solidified unit."

Hoffman, a 6-4, 265-pound senior, owns a membership card to the 4.0 Club. While he's proud, what's even cooler, he thinks, is that he gets to keep such impressive sporting company.

"So many of us strive just as much in the classroom as we do on the field," he said. "That's more of a La Salle culture thing. We have a great number of student-athletes. It's how we do things around here. That's why I love this place.

"It's pretty cool to be sitting in advanced-placement calculus, say, and look around and see familiar faces from football."

Persichetti, who lives in Blue Bell and wants to major in economics, is unsure whether he'll stick with football in college, because he's also drawing interest for his heroics in shot put and discus.

Hoffman is going the grid route, and his chief suitors (for now, many more could be popping up) are Navy, Harvard and Princeton. The Audubon, Pa., resident is partial to math and could picture studying some form of engineering.

La Salle's quarterback, Chris Kane, is the program's first 1-year senior starter in that position since Chris Pennington in 1998. It's going well, thanks, witness that he has passed for 810 yards and 11 touchdowns. Soph Jimmy Herron is already making waves as a receiver and part-time wildcatter, while Jared Herrmann has experienced rushing/catching success. Ryan Winslow, a Pitt commit, is the kicker.

In a way, the early absences of some o-linemen have been a blessing.

"We know it starts up front," Hoffman said. "No matter who's in there, we have to do our job or the ball doesn't get moved. It helps having great skills guys.

"Luckily, when we've had to move guys over from defense, that hasn't been a problem. We just rep things out at practice. Now we have a nice rotation and that's going to keep guys fresh."

Meanwhile, the battle for classroom supremacy intensifies.

"Ah, I'm probably not in that one as much as Hoffman and Spiteri are," Persichetti noted.

A 3.9 equals also-ran? Only in the 'Salle.

Contact Ted Silary at silaryt@phillynews.com.

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