Prep's Coppola leaves lasting memory

DANVERS, Mass. – Counter trap right, Tyler Coppola.

That phrase and the image of Coppola terrorizing the Mount Saint Joseph defense will be burned in the memories of the Gaels on their 10-hour bus trip back to Maryland after Saturday’s shocking 42-35 win by No. 19 St. John’s Prep.

Although they hadn’t arrived until the wee small hours of Saturday morning, the Gaels looked like the fresher team, taking a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.

From that point on, Coppola changed the complexion of the game with a 97-yard kickoff return to set up the first Eagles’ score. The senior running back took the rest on his shoulders, ripping off five touchdown runs to led St. John’s Prep (3-2) in the comeback win.

What’s more impressive is that Coppola touchdown runs (from 57, 76, 48, 61 and 42 yards, respectively) all came on the same counter trap play call.

Coppola finished with 338 yards rushing on 19 carries and, coupled with kickoff returns and receptions, racked up 473 all-purpose yards.

“We need to play better than that,” Eagles head coach Jim O’Leary said of his team’s start. “We can’t spot people those kinds of points early. But I’m proud of them coming back the way they did and the way we did it, too. We did it on the ground, broke it open and Tyler [Coppola] had some big runs.”

The Eagles looked groggy early and it could’ve been that a good number of their players had taken the SAT in the morning on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Gaels (3-3) looked sharp behind sophomore quarterback Luke Casey, who was making his first varsity start. Casey hit Angelo Deshields (19 yards) and Timmy O’Donnell (5 yards) on touchdown passes before Jeffrey Matthews added a rushing score to give the Gaels a 21-0 lead with 4:18 remaining in the first half.

On the ensuing kickoff, Coppola made his 97-yard charge down the field, setting up Prep with their first legitimate scoring chance of the game at the Gaels’ 2-yard line.

“When I got the ball, I saw a little gap between two kids, I ran up to them, made a move, beat them, Coppola said. “And that was pretty much it because they were both on the same level.”

Eagles quarterback Tommy Gaudet then put the Eagles on the board with a 1-yard touchdown run.

Then, it was time for a healthy dose of the counter, which was led by the crushing, John Hannah-esque pull blocks of guard Nate Cyr.

“He’s about as good of a lineman we’ve had,” O’Leary said of the senior captain, “and we’ve had some good ones.”

Mt. St. Joseph did not score again until the 8:48 mark of the fourth quarter on Casey’s 5-yard run.

Coppola countered with his fifth rushing score, before the Gaels came back to make it a one-possession game once again on Casey’s 63-yard bomb to Deshields with 3:13 remaining.

However, once getting the ball back, the Eagles were able to muster a couple of first downs to bleed the clock dry.

“We needed this one,” Coppola said. “We lost the last two games and last week [17-14 loss at Brockton] was tough. We should’ve won that game.

“We really needed this one.”

And all the Eagles needed was one play.

MSJ714014 -- 35

SJP014217 -- 42

First quarter

MSJAngelo Deshields 19-yard pass from Luke Casey (Fletcher Sullivan kick)

Second quarter

MSJTimmy O'Donnell 5-yard pass from Casey (Sullivan kick)

MSJJeffrey Matthews 5-yard run (Sullivan kick)

SJPTommy Gaudet 1-yard run (Connor Shaw kick)

SJP Coppola 57-yard run (Shaw kick)

Third quarter

SJPCoppola 76-yard run (Connor Shaw kick)

SJPCoppola 48-yard run (Connor Shaw kick)

SJPCoppola 61-yard run (Connor Shaw kick)

Fourth quarter

MSJCasey 2-yard run (Sullivan kick)

SJPCoppola 42-yard run (Connor Shaw kick)

MSJDeshields 63-yard pass from Casey (Sullivan kick)