WESTWOOD, Mass. -– After three straight losses and a subpar first half against St. John’s of Shrewsbury, Xaverian needed a spark in what was turning into a dreary, windy and rainy Saturday.
But the Hawks figured out pretty quickly that maybe the poor weather conditions were the perfect remedy for their offense, as they turned loose a punishing ground attack to rally for a 27-9 win.
The Hawks (5-3) did not pass once in the second half, grinding out 264 yards on 23 attempts in the final 22 minutes and 376 on 40 for the afternoon. Super-sized running backs Hunter Taute (6-2, 240) and Mo Hurst (6-2, 265) finished with 266 of those yards and senior athlete Chris Calvanese added another 83 while picking off a pass on defense.
“It was huge to build our confidence up a little bit today and it was a big game from that standpoint,” Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson said. “I think coming out in the first half, maybe that was why we were stumbling a little bit because we had lost our confidence. It took a little bit of time for us to regain our confidence.
“We talked about it at halftime. We wanted to really establish the run game in the second half and of course the weather sort of added to the necessity to do that kind of a thing. I thought our offensive line and our big running backs kind of picked it up in the second half. We really ran the ball very nicely against them.”
St. John’s (4-4) probably wouldn’t agree that Xaverian’s run game was very nice. Quite the opposite, the Hawks pushed around the Pioneers and scored on pure, straight-forward isolations, traps and tosses and St. John’s just couldn’t stop it.
Hurst and Calvanese added two short scoring runs in the third quarter before Hurst made an early “Run of the Year” nomination with a 75-yarder down the home sideline that effectively put the game away in the fourth quarter.
With that, Xaverian's outlook felt a lot sunnier, and just in time, too. Xaverian defensive coordinator Al Fornaro said outside the postgame huddle, "Playoffs start this week," as the Hawks resume Catholic Conference play with a trip to BC High.
Big Mo in the form of Big Mo: When the Hawks put the ball in Hurst’s hands, there’s a palpable rush of adrenaline that runs through the Xaverian sidelines. Also one of the top defensive tackles in the area, Hurst has nimble feet as a ballcarrier and brings a forearm shiver to opposing tacklers. Once he got into the secondary on his 75-yard score, those behind him weren’t catching him and those in front of him weren’t capable of bringing him down. With him and Taute, Xaverian can set the tone on the ground in a way that few teams in the area can hold up to.
Touting Taute: As good as Taute was running the ball Saturday, he’s probably an even better linebacker and certainly one of the most important players on the field for the Hawks. With the graduation of linebackers like Chris Tamasi and Zack Bartlett, Xaverian needed Taute to step in and immediately fill a huge void in that unit. He has done so this year admirably. Possessing a quick first step, a good nose for the ball and good tackling form, he is the centerpiece to an improving defense in Westwood.
Marvelous Montalvo: While the Xaverian offense found its rhythm in the second half, the Pioneers had a consistent threat all game in senior Efrain Montalvo, who caught five passes for 136 yards. The 5-foot-9, 160-pounder also had a 50-yard kickoff return wiped out by a penalty. Despite his small stature, the speedy Montalvo battles for the ball when it’s thrown to him, possesses excellent hands and an ability to make defenders miss in open space. There aren’t a lot of corners in the area capable of shutting him down.
XAVERIAN 27, ST. JOHN’S (S) 9
SJS (4-4) 2 7 0 0 --– 9
XAV (5-3) 0 6 14 7 --- 27
S – Safety (Patrick Ryan tackle)
X – Chris Calvanese 14 run (pass failed)
S – Shadrach Abrokwah 5 run (Patrick Merrill kick)
X – Mo Hurst 2 run (Jules Murphy kick)
X – Calvanese 1 run (Murphy kick)
X – Hurst 75 run (Murphy kick)