SHREWSBURY, Mass. -– No. 2 St. John’s of Shrewsbury came into yesterday’s non-league game with No. 13 Xaverian averaging 41 points per game.
In the second half against the Hawks, though, the Pioneers didn’t manage a single point.
Spurred by that terrific defensive effort, Xaverian ended a two-game losing streak with a 20-16 win over the previously unbeaten Pioneers. The Hawks (6-2) now enter next week’s pivotal showdown with BC High with a little momentum.
"They've been scoring a lot of points, and I wasn't sure we'd be able to contain them as well as we did," Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson said.
"They’re a good football team," St. John’s (7-1) coach John Andreoli said. "We want to play these kind of games. They’re going to go down to the wire and they’re going to be the type of game where the littlest thing can have a huge impact."
St. John’s led, 16-13, at the half, before a Nick McDaniels interception set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Xaverian’s Joe Colton (111 yards rushing). Jules Murphy’s extra point completed the scoring, but not before the Hawks twice turned the Pioneers over on downs in Xaverian territory, once in the third and once in the fourth. The second came when Ryan Farrell and Chris Tamasi tackled Cal verbal commit Richard Rodgers (101 yards receiving, but just 17 in the second half) two yards shy of the first. The Pioneers never seriously threatened again.
Chris Calvanese threw for 148 yards and two scores for the Hawks, as he looked in the direction of receiver Mike Muir (96 yards on eight catches) early and often. John Warner and Muir caught first-half touchdowns from Calvanese.
Rodgers kicked a 37-yard field goal and caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dan Light (141 yards passing, 103 rushing). Light’s 1-yard sneak with four minutes left in the first half helped give the Pioneers a 16-7 lead before Calavanese’s toss to Muir made it 16-13 going into the break.
Here are a few quick thoughts from what was a terrific high school football game between two of the best in the state:
Stevenson has a lot of confidence in Calvanese, and the junior signal-caller rewarded him with a solid all-around effort on a windy day. Calvanese completed 13-of-21 passes with one interception on a ball that was overthrown. That set up the Rodgers 27-yard touchdown reception, but other than that, Calvanese made smart decisions with the ball and put it in tight spaces when need be. You can’t really coach poise, but Calvanese has it, as the St. John’s defense hurried him into some sticky situations and he didn’t blink.
Xaverian just might have the best secondary in the state. The Hawks made two interceptions and allowed just one touchdown through the air to an offense that has been putting up video-game numbers against everyone else on its schedule. The combination of Colton and McDaniels at the corners is superb, and safeties like Farrell, a junior, and Muir, make it so difficult to go over the top against this team. There were several times that Light had all day to throw, and he eventually just escaped the pocket and tried to pick up yards because there was no one open. Against a team with a set of receivers like St. John’s has, that’s quite an accomplishment.
Is there a more underrated player in Central Massachusetts than Pioneers’ senior John Vassar? Probably not. Vassar only carried the ball four times for 37 yards, but that’s not where his biggest impact on the game was. Vassar was everywhere on defense, just everywhere. He made two sacks and several other key tackles that prevented what would have been first downs. Listed at 5-feet, 10-inches tall and 200 pounds, Vassar is a thickly-built player who packs a wallop when he arrives at the ballcarrier. He may not be the most highly-recruited player, but wherever he plays at the next level, expect him to be a productive one. He’s just a pure, instinctive athlete who can do a lot of things well on a football field.
Xaverian (6-2) 7 6 7 0 -- 20
St. John's (S) (7-1) 9 7 0 0 -- 16
X - John Warner 9 pass from Chris Calvanese (Jules Murphy kick)
S - Richard Rodgers 27 FG
S - Rodgers 27 pass from Dan Light (kick failed)
S - Light 1 run (Rodgers kick)
X - Mike Muir 2 pass from Calvanese (kick failed)
X - Joe Colton 5 run (Murphy kick)