- Scott Barboza, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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DANVERS, Mass. – A master and his disciple squared off Wednesday at St. John’s Prep as the Eagles and Haverhill got together for an afternoon scrimmage.
Here are a couple of parting thoughts from the day’s action:
SHOWING SOME TOOTH
The Hillies, led by former Prep standout Tim O’Connor who played under Prep head coach Jim O’Leary, although unranked in the preseason, will be a team to watch in the Merrimack Valley Small this year. They presented some matchup problems for Prep on defense, working out of a pistol spread formation.
Once a program on the verge of oblivion, O’Connor’s helped turn it around in a hurry, with good numbers and a crop of athletes. The Hillies are led by Tommy Morgan, a long and lanky quarterback who showcased a good throwing motion while set in the pocket Wednesday, along with fine footwork. Running back Chance Brady is a downhill runner who provides an unexpected punch out of the spread look.
One worth watching closely this season will be sophomore wide receiver Jordan Javier. The Lynn English transfer will provide matchup problems to many this season with a 6-foot-2 frame and speed to boot. Javier made several high degree of difficulty catches over Prep defenders and will be a force throughout the season.
O’Leary admitted Haverhill was a good tune-up for the Eagles’ impending game with Dracut, a similar squad out of the Merrimack Valley Small. While Prep was game for the challenge, there was still room for improvement in O’Leary’s mind.
“We’re ahead of where we were last year. We were coming off a Super Bowl season, with an experienced, veteran team, and then we had to rebuild a little bit. We certainly had the pieces with three-year starters like Lucas [Bavaro], Alex [Moore] and Johnny [Thomas] and Gerry [Kahari], those guys have been here through that, but we took our lumps along the way.”
The Eagles got several big plays in the scrimmage from some of their veterans.
Bavaro started strong, picking off a Hillies pass on the first set. The physical safety read the quarterback’s eye, undercutting an out route and rumbling the other way for a pick-six. The Eagles also got a consistent pass rush from Tucker Mather, who disrupted several plays from his defensive end position.
PULLING AS ONE
Another thing to watch at Prep for the upcoming season will be the work of the offensive line. While young, the line is big and has accrued some playing time during last year. Working in front of talented backs like Moore and Thomas, the Eagles’ O-line will be the fulcrum to a successful season in the Catholic Conference.
“James Fagan is the only senior we have on the line,” O’Leary said. “Now, a lot of those guys played last year as sophomores or even freshmen last year, but they’re coming along. They have good size, they have good athleticism, they run well.”
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