WEST ROXBURY, Mass. -- For all of the offensive wizardry with which St. John's of Shrewsbury has amassed high yardage totals this first month of the season, it all starts with a Shadrach Abrokwah cutback. So when the 5-foot-8 senior tailback limped off the field for the second time late in the third quarter against host Catholic Memorial, favoring his left leg, there was a brief jolt of unrest on the Pioneers sideline.
Brief, of course, because they slid sophomore Davon Jones from the slot to the backfield. The 5-foot-10 Jones is already building a profile as a hard hitter from the free safety spot, but has also demonstrated some pizzazz when given the ball in space. He essentially finished off what Abrokwah and quarterback Andrew Smiley started, carrying seven times for 53 yards in the fourth quarter and sealing the 21-6 win over the Knights with a touchdown with five minutes to go.
"Shad, he's the horse of this team," Jones said. "So when he went down, I was nervous. [But] we came out and adjusted in the second half, we did what we had to do to get the win."
Once again, junior quarterback Andrew Smiley tore it up running the Pioneers' uptempo "Blur offense", surpassing the 300-yard mark in yards from scrimmage on 14-of-26 passing for 207 yards, and carrying 14 times for 126 yards and two scores. In each of his three starts this season, Smiley has totaled at least 330 yards of offense, the highest his 353-yard performance in Week 1 against Holy Name.
"We felt we executed pretty well on offense, but there were times where we couldn't pound it in when we needed to," Smiley said. "But we still got it done. I thought they had a very good defensive line and their defensive backs are really good athletes. We're just going to give it our all every game and play with our hearts every game."
Those struggles came in the early-going, particuarly a sequence early in the second quarter where the Pioneers had first and goal from CM's two-yard line, courtesy of two crisp strikes to Micah Cummins (four catches, 59 yards), but were stuffed four times by a number of Knight defenders, including Connor Peck, Martin Geraghty, Charlie Aylward, and UMass-bound defensive end Peter Ngobidi. But after stalling CM eight plays into the ensuing drive, Smiley busted out of the rut.
A 24-yard middle screen to Cummins, followed three plays later by a 17-yard strike to Jones, kicked things into gear. Smiley then capped the nine-play, 51-yard drive with a two-yard zone read keeper for the game's opening score.
Sophomore scatback Chris Samuel (eight carries, 98 yards, TD) returned the favor on the ensuing drive with a three-yard dive to close the Pioneers' lead to 7-6, but the Pioneers closed the door in the second half after some adjustments.
Smiley hit the end zone again on St. John's first drive of the third quarter, pulling the ball again for a 10-yard keeper. Their next drive ended in a goal-line interception by Kevin Claflin, who returned it 60 yards only to see it negated by a block in the back call, which put the ball back at their own 10. And as luck would have it, CM's first drive of the fourth quarter ended with Pat Shore getting picked off by Jones five plays in.
Jones put the finishing touches two drives later, after getting great field position off a punt. Smiley took a zone read keeper 27 yards up the left seam, then a play later Jones did the rest, taking an 18-yard draw up the middle for a 21-6 score.
"CM is a physical team but I give out kids a lot of credit," St. John's head coach John Andreoli said. "We had a great week of preparation. Our kids were mentally ready to play this game. Our defense had a second half shutout and for a team that is that explosive I'm very proud of them. Offensively we had guys cramping up. We had some chances inside the red zone but give them credit they've got a pretty-good defense but we just kept coming back at them."
Promising talent: There are some terrific individual talents within the CM program -- between Shore, receiver Deijon Evans, and brothers Kevin and Curt Bletzer -- as well as some seniors, specifically Ngobodi. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound end/linebacker played primarily with his hand in the turf tonight, came up with a sack, and was generally a force, repeatedly beating his man to the outside with a rip move, or simply bull-rushing his way to the quarterback.
In the backfield, the Knights have a terrific centerpiece to build around in Samuel. Like Holy Name's Quron Wright, the 5-foot-7, 150-pounder is built low to the ground, with excellent acceleration and enough shiftiness to make him hard to get a proper angle. Head coach Alex Campea is clamping down on the hyperbole before it can take off, however.
"He's quick, but he's not Armani [Reeves], you know what I'm saying?" Campea chuckled, referring to his star running back from a season ago who was ESPN Boston's Offensive Player of the Year, and is currently playing as a true freshman at Ohio State.
Campea continued, "He's still learning the ropes. He'll make a great play, and then sometimes he'll make a play that you'll shake your head. But the bottom line is, he's playing hard."
ST. JOHN'S (SHREWSBURY) 21, CATHOLIC MEMORIAL 6
SJ 0 7 7 7 --- 21
CM 0 6 0 0 --- 6
S - Andrew Smiley 2 run (Pat Lehane kick) 3:53
C - Chris Samuel 3 run (kick blocked) :45
S - Smiley 10 run (Lehane kick) 5:14
S - Davon Jones 18 run (Lehane kick) 5:12