Boston High School: Matt Rogers

D1 South: Xaverian 11, BC High 9 (OT)

November, 10, 2013

WESTWOOD, Mass. – After his Hawks had won, Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson stood at midfield.

His team, down the field near the goal line, was waiting on him to deliver his postgame remarks. Instead, Stevenson was at midfield talking to a member of the opposing team. He held a hand to the side of Connor Walsh’s helmet, lightly tapping it to the syncopations of words he spoke. He asked the BC High tight end whether he was, in fact, a senior, and then quipped that he was relieved he’d never again have to coach against the 6-foot-3, 225-pound, two-way player.

“He had a great game, a great season and a great career,” Stevenson said of his interaction with Walsh. “I told him to have a great college career as well. I just wanted to tell him he’s a great player.”

Xaverian and BC High struggled to a 3-3 at the end of regulation in Saturday’s Division 1 South semi-final between the old Catholic Conference rivals.

At the game’s end, bad luck seemed to follow BC High at every turn. The Eagles had an opportunity to salt away the clock and attempt a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation time, but a fumble on a botched handoff returned the ball to the Hawks inside of the 2-minute warning.

Even when the Eagles had the chance to force a second overtime, the 2-point conversion pass fell to ground, following a near incredulous effort by Walsh to make what would have been a circus catch.

Sometimes there are greater forces at hand in football.

Stevenson alluded to the divine during the postgame. After dealing with a health issue in recent weeks, which even forced the 20-season veteran from the sideline, missing a regular-season game last month, a reflective Stevenson said he’d been asking a lot from the man upstairs of late.

The Hawks won, 11-9.

Stifling defense: Both offenses struggled to find pace through the first half, with both offenses combining for just 223 yards of offense through the first 22.

While the only points of regulation were scored in the first half, with Xaverian’s Matt Rogers connecting on a 22-yard field goal before the Eagles’ Matt Johnson snuck one over the crossbar from 32 yards out in the second quarter, BC High was fortunate to be locked in a tie game after the Hawks forced two turnovers.

The Eagles’ opening drive of the game was derailed by Joe Gaziano’s strip-sack, at the BC High 34-yard line. BC High’s second drive didn’t fair much better, as Xaverian junior defensive back Ernest Simon intercepted Sean Holleran.

The Eagles came away with a crucial pick as well in the fourth quarter, when Will Johnson hauled in a tip-drill interception, halting a Hawks drive which had entered BC High territory.

However, the most crucial turnover of the game unfolded nearing the final minute of regulation. A botched handoff by the Eagles resulted in a loose ball, which Gaziano (2 sacks, FF, FR) quickly pounced on with 1:03 remaining. The giveaway came after the Eagles had marched 54 yards on seven plays, with senior running back Ismail Asongwed (16 carries, 92 yards) accounting for 52 of those yards on rushes.

“The defense was outstanding,” Xaverian quarterback Jake Farrell said. “Again, we let up under ten points, or even under seven points in a game, they get one field goal. They weren’t moving the ball on us that much.

“Our linebacker corps and our defensive line is just stepping it up. It’s really hard to run the ball against us. When you do have to pass, we have a great secondary that can step up and make a lot of plays for us.”

Mixing things up: While Xaverian’s offense was ineffectual, at times, Farrell learned some timely lessons from a couple of miscues in regulation.

Farrell (12 of 20 pass attempts, 159 yards; 8 rushes, 46 yards, TD) earned the Hawks’ lone touchdown of the game, taking in a 5-yard rush on second down during the overtime session. The play-call was a check-with-me, meaning it was a discretion play, in which Farrell checked down to the run after scoping out the coverage against a preliminary pass call.

He chose wisely. However, the dive-option play Farrell checked into hadn’t gone so swimmingly earlier in the contest.

“It’s a just read play up the middle to Kenny [Kern],” the junior signal-caller said. “Earlier in the game, I gave it to Kenny when I should’ve kept it. I had that in the back of my head. Then, I saw an opening and I just kept going.”

The result was a perfectly executed permutation of a second option.

“We were expecting that dive-option,” Eagles head coach Joe Gaff said. “[Farrell] did a tremendous job pulling it. He read the D-end, he went down and did a nice job pulling it. We’d done a nice job stopping that all game, but that’s we he’s a good player. He read it and he got in there.”

Kern’s successful 2-point conversion run then put pull pressure on BC High’s offense to respond.

To counter, Holleran dialed up his prettiest throw of the afternoon, hitting Asongwed on a crossing pattern for a 13-yard score.

As the Eagles were forced to go for two to extend the game into a second overtime, Walsh couldn’t corral Holleran’s pass to the near right-hand side pylon and the Hawk Bowl’s faithful streamed onto the field.

The No. 1 seed Hawks will host No. 2 seed Attleboro for the sectional championship next Saturday in Westwood.

Recap: No. 5 Xaverian 14, No. 15 Brockton 0

October, 12, 2013
WESTWOOD, Mass. -– Just when you think you’ve seen the best out of Xaverian’s defense, the Hawks just keep dialing it up another notch.

[+] EnlargeXaverian football
Brendan Hall,/ESPNBoston.comJoe Gaziano (4 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 INT) led the way for Xaverian as the No. 5 Hawks held Brockton to just 70 yards of offense.
Three weeks ago, three blocked punts led the Hawks to a 49-13 rout of then-No. 1 Bridgewater-Raynham. Last week, the Hawks’ defense put down the clamps in the second half as they blew out Catholic Memorial, 43-7.

Under gray, drizzly skies this afternoon at the Hawk Bowl, Xaverian held Brockton’s vaunted triple-option attack to just 70 yards of total offense, sealing the game late with a 57-yard interception return to come away with a hard-earned 14-0 shutout victory.

“I thought our defense played really outstanding, they really bailed us out today,” Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson said. “We had trouble getting our offense in gear, we’d make a play and then we wouldn’t make a play.”

The Hawks (4-1) took their initial lead late in the first quarter, starting at their own 45 and stringing together a nine-play, five minute drive that was punctuated by a 21-yard touchdown scamper by quarterback Jake Farrell. The right-handed junior saw pressure coming from his front side, rolled to his left and found a running lane open up, sprinting up field for the scoring scramble.

After that, the Hawks played it conservatively –- mostly feeding the ball to running backs Shayne Kaminski (17 carries, 64 yards), Kenny Kern and Noah Sorrento –- and let the defense take over.

And boy, did they take over. Led by junior defensive end Joe Gaziano (four sacks, two tackles for loss, interception) and Dan Benvie (sack), the Hawks dropped Boxers (2-3) quarterback Pat Burke for six sacks on the afternoon. The Boxers have been known to create confusion at the point of attack with its “Flex Bone” option scheme, but there were no such tricks today, as the Hawks routinely filled the interior gaps and muddied what has been at times a pretty crisp three-headed backfield.

Perhaps most impressive was the Hawk defense’s ability to get off the field quickly. Brockton had just two first downs on the afternoon and crossed the 50-yard line into Hawk territory just twice, both times coming in the fourth quarter.

The Hawks sealed it late in the fourth quarter when Burke’s screen pass attempt was broken up, then returned 57 yards to the house on a tip-drill pick-six. Sorrento was there to greet the Brockton running back in the right flat, squaring up his shoulders as the back attempted to haul in the pass and slamming into his midsection. The ball took a high bounce off of the player’s shoulder pads, and Kerns was there to pluck the ball out of the air and take it down the left sideline to paydirt.

“I’m really happy with the way our guys hung in there,” Stevenson said. “They [Brockton] are a really physical team. They’re getting much better from week to week. When I see the way they played early on to now, they’re playing very very well defensively.”

Brockton has allowed just 20 points in its last two games, but its offense has some kinks to work out following a second straight shutout loss. The Boxers have not scored a point in the last eight quarters, and have produced just 182 yards of offense over that same timespan.

Joe of all trades: Of all the Swiss Army knives in Stevenson’s drawer this fall, Gaziano might be the sharpest. Few athletes in the Catholic Conference have demonstrated as much versatility as the 6-foot-3, 230-pound five-technique end.

Offensively, he had one of the most impressive plays of the game at tight end, hauling in a 21-yard pass from Farrell in which he used his long outstretched arms to wrestle the ball away from two Brockton defenders dogging him all over. He also factored into the running game, setting the edge for the Hawks’ stable of backs.

In special teams, Gaziano is everywhere. His punts at times can pin the opposition deep, and he registered a touchback today kicking the ball off. In the return game, he is a constant threat to block a punt (the Hawks registered another one today), and also excels at blocking for returners.

Defensively, his prowess is already well-known. He is a rangy player with a long, athletic frame, that they take full advantage of. In one second-half play, Gaziano got hang time as he leaped high to pick off a middle screen from Burke. Gaziano is also called on occasionally to drop back into pass coverage from the defensive end spot.

“Gaziano is a beast,” Stevenson said. “Gaziano had a great game today, he picked off the screen pass they tried and sacked the quarterback at huge times –- it’s not just that he had a sack, [he had them] at huge times in the game. He’s a good player for us, and I’m glad he’s going to Xaverian High School again next year. He’s just getting better week to week.

“We certainly were concerned about their perimeter game, we didn’t want to let their speed guys outside, so he was coming up field a little more than we normally do. He’s such a good athlete that he can do that kind of stuff and come back down inside if we need him to. As you guys know, he’s a jack of all trades.”


BR 0 0 0 0 --- 0
XB 7 0 0 7 --- 14

First Quarter
Jake Farrell 21 run (Matt Rogers kick) :06

Fourth Quarter
Kenny Kern 57 interception return (Rogers kick) :47