Boston High School: Kevin Connelly

Recap: No. 3 Cathedral 3, No. 8 St. John's (S) 3

December, 15, 2013
WORCESTER, Mass. -- St. John's (Shrewsbury) was able to weather the storm on two fronts this evening.

First, the Pioneers had to trudge their way through the winter conditions to make it to the Holy Cross Hart Center. Secondly, they managed to withstand offensive-laden Springfield Cathedral by rallying from a two-goal third period deficit to secure a 3-3 tie in a Catholic West Conference showdown.

For St. John's (0-0-1) the deadlock felt more like a victory. The same, however, could not be said for the Panthers (1-0-1) whose mental breakdowns over the final frame allowed the Pioneers to crawl back.

"You go into the third period with a two-goal lead you expect to hold on to it," said Cathedral coach Brian Foley. "St. John's played hard and played with a lot of energy. I know it was their first game and for them it was going to be an exciting night."

The Pioneers comeback began early in the third. Just 1:12 in, junior forward Garrett Lehane let go of a shot from the right circle which sailed past the catching glove of Panthers goaltender John Liquori (22 saves). Four minutes later, with Cathedral's Bryce Peritz in the penalty box for a tripping violation, senior Kevin Connelly snuck a shot past Liquori to knot this tilt. For the remainder of the period, the Panthers played back on their heels. A game misconduct penalty to Zac Prattson certainly didn't help matters, gaving the Pioneers a five-minute power play to work with. To Cathedral's credit, it succeeded on the penalty kill which, in turn, also negated its offensive punch in a quest for the go-ahead score.

For a team that finished 7-11-4 a year ago, St. John's, under the direction of first-year head coach Mike Mead, sustained a belief that things will be much different this season.

"The kids really played well and were able to bounce back," said Mead, who took over for longtime coach Brian Murphy. "It was certainly a good start to the season. We needed to be physical with them and I think our senior defensemen really stepped up and played well for us. It was a good comeback. The kids didn't quit so you take that and move forward. For us it's one shift and one period at a time. We want to build confidence with each period."

The Panthers held a 1-0 lead after the first 15 minutes thanks to Prattson's hard wrist shot past Pioneers netminder Mario Pizzeri (29 saves). Cathedral probably could have scored a couple more times in the frame, out-shooting St. John's 14-6, but Pizzeri, who was sidelined for part of last season due to a groin injury, stood tall.

St. John's physicality was notice immediately, as they were bumping any Panther with the puck on his stick. Midway through the middle period, Cathedral went up by a pair. On the strength of the power play, junior forward Peter Crinella poked in a Riley Prattson pass just in front of Pizzeri. But less than 30 seconds later, Pioneers' top defenseman Bryan Nelson blasted a shot that Liquori initially stopped but somehow the puck trickled through the senior pads across the goal line to make it 2-1.

"We wanted to come out and send a message that we want to be respected this year," said Nelson. "Last year was a letdown season. We knew we were a bigger team compared to them and we knew they were young. Our plan was to bang them around as much as we could tonight and I felt we did that."

With St. John's slowly seizing momentum, Crinella, temporarily, put a halt to it during the final minute of the period by tallying his second score of the night. The Holy Cross commit gained control of puck from behind the Pioneer goal and cycled out front before launching a hard wrist shot through traffic that Pizzeri never saw, giving the Panthers a 3-1 edge.

A team with a flurry of offense, it appeared as though Cathedral was in total control. But the ever-presence of the St. John's fore check forced the Panthers into losing their composure as well as the puck. Both of which allowed the Pioneers to earn the tie.

"Cathedral is a great team," Mead said. "They're a Super 8 team, so to come back and tie a Super 8 team in your own building in our first game and as a new coach is a good sign. I'm glad it's over.

“Now it gets easier from here, you hope."

Recap: Marlborough 28, Nashoba 24

October, 11, 2013
MARLBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was more than just your run-of-the-mill high school football game.

For Marlborough, it was a chance to make believers out of naysayers. The Panthers came into Friday's contest against rival Nashoba Regional spotless, having won its first four games of the season.

On the surface, that might seem impressive, but upon further review, the opponents Marlborough had defeated entering Friday’s action were a combined 3-13. Facing the Chieftains at historic Kellerher Field represented the first true litmus test of the season for this group. How they would stack up against a worthy opponent was anyone's guess.

Nashoba, like Marlborough, also had something to prove on this crisp autumn evening. The Chieftains' school-record of 29 consecutive victories was snapped a week ago against St. John's (Shrewsbury). Having not lost a game since 2010, first-year head coach Jamie Tucker spoke prior to kickoff that it was time for his team to deal with it and move on.

Following Marlborough's gut-check 28-24 victory, both teams proved their mettle in a number of ways. The Panthers, who last defeated the Chieftains in 2005, erased an 11-point deficit heading into the final quarter. A 28-yard touchdown pass from John Rumney to Jose Caquias was followed by a Leo Coelho conversion reception that left Marlborough trailing by only three points, 24-21, with just under nine minutes to go.

On the Chieftains' next series, it appeared they would go up by two scores again after driving 63 yards. Facing a fourth-and-goal inside the 5-yard line, the Panther defense stiffened and stopped Nashoba at the 1, taking over possession.

With momentum now clearly in Marlborough's favor, Rumney (18-of-31, 256 yards, 3 TD) directed the Panthers downfield. A crucial first down completion by senior receiver Matt Thall on fourth-and-10 allowed the drive to continue. Seven plays later, Rumney hit Thall again, this time on a slant pattern in the end zone with 1:08 remaining, to give Marlborough (5-0) the lead for good.

"Our defense made a huge stop on their drive," said Thall, who finished with eight catches for 114 yards. "We got the ball back and drove the length of the field to win it. Certainly, this is our first signature win of the season. We beat all the teams we were suppose to beat and tonight this was a real test for us and were able to come out on top. We have a lot of things going for us right now."

The conclusion to this game did not come without some edge-of-your-seat dramatics.

Nashoba (3-2) showed tremendous grit in staging a final comeback bid following the Panther touchdown. Senior quarterback Matt Mudgett (180 yards on 13 of 19 attempts, TD) completed five passes as part of a 63-yard drive, getting the ball to the Panther 13 with less than 10 seconds to go. But solid man-to-man defense forced Mudgett to sail his final two passes out of the end zone.

"Any loss is tough," said Tucker, after his team finished with 383 yards offensively. "We played hard but Marlborough made a few more plays and that was the difference in the game. That last drive was a huge test of character for us.

“They had that long drive for the touchdown and it's hard to fight back from that which we did. But unfortunately we weren't able to put the ball into the end zone. Matt Mudgett played tremendous for us tonight. He stood in there and took a lot of hits. I cannot say enough about him. He just played great."

Marlborough, which accumulated 376 yards of offense, wasted little time grabbing the lead in this one. Just two plays in, Rumney tossed an out-pass to Caquias, who darted down the left sideline 63 yards to put the Panthers on top 6-0.

Drew Korn's 31-yard field goal midway through the opening quarter put Nashoba on the board, trailing 6-3. Senior running back Matt Sabourin's 24-yard scoring scamper up the middle with 3:57 still remaining in the quarter then pushed the Chieftains ahead 10-6.

Sabourin led Nashoba's ground game with 105 yards on 14 attempts.

Marlborough moved back ahead with 6:05 left before halftime.

A 33-yard catch by Thall set up William Cowdrey's 1-yard scoring run. Cowdrey, a junior, carried the ball 19 times for 108 yards. The offensive fireworks continued. A blocked punt from Nashoba's Nick Tavis led to Mudgett's 51-yard strike to receiver Kevin Connelly in the closing minutes to send Nashoba into the break leading 17-13.

The Chieftains' momentum carried over into the third quarter.

An Eli Williams interception at the goal line, following a sustained Panther drive, allowed Nashoba to dodge a major bullet. After the pick, the Chieftains proceeded to march 68 yards before Frankie Chiodo blasted into the end zone from 13 yards out, putting Nashoba in command at 24-13.

"This was a one play game throughout for both teams," Panthers coach Sean Mahoney said. "Marlborough and Nashoba have had some tremendous games through the years and this is just another one.

“Even though Nashoba scored 24 points, I still felt our defense played well. We hadn't been very good defensively, but tonight we were good when we had to be. Offensively, nothing fazes these kids. They just go out and keep making plays."