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FOOTBALL: De La Salle runs past Chandler Park 44-6

Getting into the playoffs as a 5-4 team isn’t foreign to the De La Salle Pilots.

They’ll just have to pray a little harder this weekend.

After taking care of business in Friday’s regular-season finale, a 44-6 win over Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy at Lakeview, several scenarios must play-out. So, before the Pilots can begin scheming for a possible first-round opponent, they’ll have to wait and see if they’re among a spattering of five-win teams that will be invited to the playoff party.

“Now we’re sitting on the edge and we’ll watch,” De La Salle coach Paul Verska said. “There’s a lot of things that have to happen for us to get in. Dearborn has to win, Dearborn Fordson has to win. Oxford and Farmington Hills Harrison’s got to win. If that happens we’ll be right there and we’ll start analyzing who we might play and begin breaking down what we have to do.”

The Pilots have limped into the postseason following four-loss seasons before, doing so in 2009, 2003 and 1999. The last time, senior Shane Morris was a freshman backup who was pressed into service when the starting quarterback suffered a season-ending injury in a playoff-opener. Then, Morris guided the Pilots to three straight wins before losing in the semifinals to a Devin Gardner-led Inkster team.

If the Pilots are prepping for a playoff game this week – instead of turning in their pads and helmets –

Morris will be asked to induce another long postseason run like he did three years ago.

The heralded Michigan recruit was on the field Friday for just the second time since he received the all-clear to return to action following a bout with mononucleosis. However, the rainy conditions were more conducive for the Pilots’ ground attack, which was led by senior Damorria Lilly, who rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

Morris played for about half of the game to, “shake off the rust,” Verska said. The 6-foot-3 lefty finished with a TD and two interceptions on 5-of-14 passing for 136 yards – with 118 yards coming on two screens to Lilly and a shuttle pass to junior Sam Badalamenti.

“He’s getting better, he’s getting better every day,” Verska said of his quarterback. “It was great to see him back, and Gio Rescigno is doing a good job behind him, so we have some other kids who can play. But it’s great to see Shane back and feeling spunky again.”

But Chandler Park wasn’t so impressed by the state’s top college prospect. The Eagles jumped on De La Salle on the first play from scrimmage when junior defensive back Jalen Murphy hauled in a tipped Morris pass and returned it 26-yards to the De La Salle 14. The play was made possible by defensive end Andre Turner, who hit Morris as he threw the ball.

“Andre Turner has been doing it for us all year,” Eagles coach John Jergovich said. “The way he comes off that end, nobody’s been able to block him all year.”

On the very next play, the Eagles (6-2) got on the scoreboard when quarterback Jywan Howard fired a 14-yard strike to C’Sonte York, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver who is also headed to Michigan next fall.

The turnover and subsequent scoring play was the Pilots’ wake-up call, as De La Salle enforced its will on the strength of Lilly’s bulldog-like running style. The 5-foot-7, 183-pound senior averaged nearly six-yards per carry.

De La Salle scored late in the opening quarter when Morris, who started the game by missing his first three pass attempts, tossed an 11-yard TD to Badalamenti. Morris had his struggles and was pressured often by Turner, who is a Western Michigan recruit. Badalmenti also scored on a two-yard run that put the Pilots up by two touchdowns later in the half.

The Pilots’ defense got the ball into the end zone when senior linebacker Allen Jefferson, Jr. intercepted a pass and returned it 26-yards to give De La Salle a 13-6 lead in the second quarter.

“We got some good pressure on that play and one of our linemen, Keith Harris, tipped it, and Allen just ran like heck,” Verska said. “He did a nice job.”

Lilly pushed the ball over the goal line on runs of 1- and 2-yards in the third quarter. Freshman Tru Wilson had a 4-yard TD run and junior kicker Nate Nordstrom added a 27-yard field goal for the Pilots, who have played postseason football in eight of the previous 10 years.

Last Updated: 10/19/2012 10:55:49 PM EST