Boston High School: A.J. Carrigan

Continuity comes full circle for Burt, St. Pierre

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
10:21
PM ET
DANVERS, Mass. -– For most high school football programs, hiring a new head coach and replacing all but three offensive starters would mark the beginning of a transitional year, but St. John’s Prep is no ordinary program.

Since 1967, the Eagles have won four state championships and 14 Catholic Conference titles under the tenure of just two head coaches. So when Jim O’Leary, who took over coaching duties for Fred Glatz in 1984, retired this winter, he says he was thrilled to be replaced by Prep alum Brian St. Pierre.

“I’m really pleased we found one of our guys,” said O’Leary, who is now solely the school’s Athletic Director. “[Brian’s] philosophy is very close to mine, and the entire staff is back from last year, so it’s not as big of a transition as compared to how it be in other places.”

St. Pierre wasn’t just a student at Prep. He was on the sidelines from the time he could walk, accompanying his father, who spent some 38 years as the football team’s physician.

After an impressive career as the Eagles' quarterback, St. Pierre played at Boston College before getting drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2003 NFL Draft. He spent eight years in the NFL, but came back to his high school alma mater every offseason to work out.

It was during one of those throwing sessions that St. Pierre first met standout tight end Jake Burt, who was just a freshman at the time. Now a senior that has verbally committed to Boston College next year, Burt says that St. Pierre was an invaluable resource throughout the recruiting process.

“I would go and meet with him about all the different colleges, and it was great because he went through the same process. He was able to give me great advice. He told me not to rush anything, and I was able to make the best decision for me.”

Like St. Pierre, Burt has been around campus since he was a kid, and says that he began using the field to practice when his oldest brother enrolled at Prep in 2007. He’s one of four siblings that have graduated, or are currently attending the all-boys school, and has been an integral part of the football team since he joined the varsity squad as a fullback and special teamer during his sophomore year.

“My family’s been around here for a long time,” Burt said during the break between practices this Thursday. “And it helps being familiar with the program. There were a lot of things going on this offseason, so having someone who is also familiar with program in coach St. Pierre come on board has definitely made the transition smoother.”

Last year, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound tight end hauled in 28 balls for 367 yards as a featured part of the Eagles offense. Now Burt will play alongside a primarily new offensive line, and catch passes from a new quarterback, as senior A.J. Carrigan competes with junior transfer Oliver Eberth for the starting job.

The two signal callers were able to build a rapport with Burt as St. John’s won the Under Armour Northeast 7-on-7 North Sectional tournament this July. Eberth and Carrigan split reps during the tournament, and while they both targeted senior wideouts Owen Rockett and James DiBenedetto often, they were effusive in their praise of Burt.

“Jake’s the guy you want on your team,” Carrigan said. “He can do it all. He blocks well, he’s got great hands, he’s got speed, he’s just the all around package that you’re looking for as a quarterback because you can always trust he’s going to make a play.”

Since Burt is an experienced player that was a part of the 2012 Super Bowl winning team at Prep, his coach is holding him to a high standard as a senior.

“I just want him to take on a leadership role, and he’s already started to do that. I don’t worry about Jake, but I want him to raise the performance of the guys around him,” said St. Pierre.

Whichever QB starts this year will be grateful to have a dependable target like Burt, because four of the top 10 teams in our statewide preseason polls are on the Eagles’ schedule. They’ll open 2014 the season with games against No. 6 Bridgewater-Raynham, No. 9 Brockton, No. 2 Central Catholic, and No. 3 Everett during the month of September, and it doesn’t get much easier after that.

“Our schedule is brutal,” St. Pierre said before a practice, “but that’s why I came to this school as a football player, that’s why these kids come here, and that’s why I wanted to coach here. There are no easy weeks. Every week’s a playoff game and that’s part of the allure of coming here. It’s certainly going to be a challenge, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Regardless of the results, St. Pierre says he’s glad to be back at St. John’s Prep. “I had opportunities to coach at the college or NFL level, and could’ve gone that route, but this just felt right. I had a great experience here, and this place has always felt like home to me, so it’s just a natural fit.”

Northeast 7v7: Prep claims North title

July, 19, 2014
Jul 19
7:56
PM ET
EXETER, N.H. -- James DiBenedetto had a hard time getting on the field when the St. John’s Prep football team had the ball last season. It’s unlikely the same will be true this fall.

DiBenedetto, a 6-foot-4 wide receiver, caught a touchdown pass and another pass for a two-point conversion to help St. John’s Prep defeat Tewksbury 16-8 to win the Under Armour 7-on-7 tournament’s North Regional on Saturday.

“We still have a strong running team here, but coach (Brian) St. Pierre likes to throw the ball,” DiBenedetto said. “As you can see, we’re a pretty strong with passing. It’s good to win this. This really shows how much chemistry the team has.”

DiBenedetto, who will be a senior this season, is a Topsfield resident who played primarily safety and outside linebacker last season.

“It was hard to find an offensive position for him last year,” said Mike O’Leary (son of former St. John’s Prep coach Jim O’Leary), who coached the Eagles in the 7-on-7 event. “There was a senior at the X (wide receiver) last year, so he was all over the map (on defense). This year he’s moving to the offensive side of the ball.”

DiBenedetto was part of a deep group of receivers that seemed to separate St. John’s Prep from most of the competition Saturday. That group included 6-foot-4 tight end Jake Burt, wide receiver Michael Calascibetta and wide receiver Owen Rockett. Burt also caught a TD pass against Tewksbury. Rockett capped the scoring with a two-point-conversion catch.

Calascibetta is known as “Gloves” because he once was the only player to wear gloves to a quarterback/receiver camp. Burt, a Lynnfield resident, committed to Boston College in April. He said Virginia and Harvard were also in the picture when he chose BC.

“I wanted to play a higher level of football than the Ivy League, so BC was everything I wanted in a school,” Burt said. “It’s always good to start off the season with a win, no matter what kind of football it is. It’s still football.”

St. John’s Prep, which used both A.J. Carrigan and Oliver Eberth at quarterback, also won the North Regional last year, when the Eagles went on to win the tournament championship. Carrigan was with St. John’s Prep last season. Eberth is a transfer from Andover.

St. John’s Prep went 3-1 in pool play, and then won single-elimination games against Marshwood (South Berwick, Maine), Danvers and York, Maine, to reach the championship game. The tournament featured 40 teams.

“Our quarterback play was good,” O’Leary said. “They did just what we asked them to do. Between James and Jake, those are two very tall, tall kids. Very tough to cover for small corners out there.”

Championship bound: By reaching the North Regional’s championship game, St. John’s Prep and Tewksbury each advanced to the New England championship, which will be held July 30 at Bishop Fenwick High School (4 p.m.).

The New England championship will feature 10 teams: the finalists from each of the three regionals, plus four wildcard teams. The South Regional will be held today at Oliver Ames High School in North Easton, and the East Regional will be July 26 at Bishop Fenwick.

Jaguars make strong statement: Windham (N.H.) handed St. John’s Prep its only loss. The Jaguars were led by 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback Brendan McInnis, who will be one of the top QBs in New Hampshire next season.

Dartmouth, Brown, Merrimack College, Holy Cross and the University of New Hampshire are among the schools that have shown interest in McInnis.

“Dartmouth has emerged as the frontrunner,” McInnis said. “Right now I’m focused on getting to UNH (the site of New Hampshire’s state championship games), then I’ll try to make a decision.”

Windham won its first five games before it lost to Tewksbury in the quarterfinals.

New digs, same success: Former Longmeadow coach Alex Rotsko led Marshwood to a 4-0 record in pool play, but the Hawks were eliminated by St. John’s Prep in the Round of 16.

Longmeadow had a 184-38 record in Rotsko’s 19 seasons as head coach. He guided Longmeadow to 15 consecutive Super Bowl appearances.

“You get a lot of work on both sides of the ball,” Rotsko said when he was asked about the value on 7-on-7 events. “This is a great opportunity to work on your pass game, work on your defense and also to look at personnel. The big thing is you don’t waste a week or two weeks in preseason having a kid playing in some position he’s not going to be able to play. It saves you a ton of time.”

Marshwood lost to Kennebunk in last year’s Western Maine Class B championship game, and is expected to be one of the top teams in Class B this year.

“We hope to be in the thick of it again,” Rotsko said.

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