by: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER, Gladstone defenders swarm a La Salle player during Thursday night's game at Gladstone. The Falcons beat the Gladiators 31-21.

GLADSTONE - La Salle gained an inside track on earning a spot in postseason play Friday, as the Falcons racked up 448 yards in offense to knock off Capital Conference leader Gladstone 31-21 on the Gladiators' home field.

'I'm very excited,' said La Salle senior co-captain Mark Meek. 'We've never been to the playoffs the whole time I've been at La Salle. And this puts us in great position to make the playoffs.'

The Falcon win left Gladstone and La Salle with identical 3-1 records in the Capital Conference with two conference games remaining.

Meek added, 'The key was defensive toughness and a high intensity offense. Our quarterback, Vince Hicks, really stepped it up tonight.'

La Salle star running back Chris Nagel had a great night, rushing 29 times for 175 yards. But Nagel scored just one touchdown.

It was Hicks who got the ball to the end zone. The 6-1, 190-pound junior rushed eight times for 72 yards and a touchdown, and completed scoring strikes of 31 and 13 yards to junior wide receiver Cam Keeney.

Hicks completed 11-of-20 passes for 202 yards on the night; Keeney made six catches for 124 yards.

But the Falcons couldn't have gotten it done without some key defensive stops.

Trailing 24-14 at halftime, the Gladiators started gaining momentum in the third period, when Gladstone star running back Jordan Aldredge and Gladstone quarterback Mitch Foteff began to fire up.

Foteff hit Darrell Fields with a 40-yard pass to narrow the gap to 24-21 as the third quarter was winding down.

The Falcons followed with a drive to the Gladstone 4, where senior defensive back Joe Kociemba leaped on a fumble to keep the Gladiators' comeback hopes alive.

The Glads then went on the march again, driving all the way to midfield, before La Salle linebacker Duncan Mitchell claimed the ball for La Salle with a fumble recovery.

Nagel carried for six straight plays, taking the ball 12 yards to paydirt to make it 31-21 with just 3:29 remaining.

Nagel picked off a pass on the Gladiators' next possession, and the game belonged to La Salle.

'Our defense is improving every week,' said La Salle coach Mike Fanger. 'My hat's off to our defensive coaching staff and our defensive players for stopping Jordan Aldredge. He had a couple of big plays, but he never broke the long one.'

Aldredge, one of the top offensive players in the Capital Conference, had only 75 yards rushing on the night, and he never reached the end zone.

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