BROCKTON, Mass. – It not as though No. 1 Xaverian football hasn’t been operating on all cylinders. The Hawks were undefeated entering Friday night’s action against Division 1 South rival No. 6 Brockton.
But you could argue Xaverian had yet to encounter an opponent as big and physical as the Boxers. It was a matchup of strength against strength, with two of the state’s most prolific rushing attacks showcased.
The Hawks won the rushing battle and the game, pulling away in a 34-14 victory while rushing for nearly 300 yards.
“It was a ground-and-pound affair, like I think everybody anticipated that it might be,” Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson deadpanned. “They’re tough and they really put a lot of guys at the line of scrimmage. And they made it tough on us to do what we like to do, but we were fortunate we were still able to do it.”
Brockton (3-2) scored on its opening possession, with a 36-yard pass play from Aaron Williams to Jonathan Deroulus setting up Kerry Raymond’s 18-yard touchdown run.
However, the Hawks (5-0) also produced a touchdown drive on their first touch and never looked back.
Xaverian senior quarterback Jake Farrell ran for 150 yards on nine carries with two touchdowns, including his 74-yard run on the Hawks’ second play from scrimmage. The Hawks took a 14-7 lead into the half following Farrell’s 6-yard touchdown run, capping a 73-yard, 16-play drive with 1:10 to go in the half.
“Jake’s been making big plays all year long,” Stevenson said. “I thought he ran the offense well tonight. He kept moving the chains and getting us down the field.”
In the second half, the Hawks leaned on fullback Kenny Kern to gain a bulk of the yards. Kern (20 carries, 73 yards) churned out tough yards. It paid dividends in the form of back-to-back scores – of 1 and 3 yards, respectively – and lifting the Hawks to a 27-14 lead after a Williams’ touchdown run had made it a one-possession game in the third.
The third prong of Xaverian’s rushing attack was Noah Sorrento (17 carries, 71 yards), who capped scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run inside of the two-minute warning.
“We had all of our running backs running well tonight and our line clearly, under very difficult circumstances, did what I asked them to do,” Stevenson said. “There’ve been plenty of times we’ve come to Brockton and they’ve lined up like that and we were not able to block them.”
Selling the dive: A crucial element of Xaverian’s ground game, both in Friday’s win and throughout the season, has hinged on Farrell’s ability to sell the inside run in the Hawks’ zone read game.
Kern, a bulldozing two-way wrecking ball of a fullback and linebacker, typically lines up as the up back in the Hawks’ I-formation. His presence requires defenses to respect the inside fullback dive.
Meanwhile, Farrell’s read is either to give Kern the ball on the inside give, or pull the ball back, if he senses running room to the outside.
It was run to near perfection on Friday. And it was evident on Farrell’s impressive 74-yard score, which he broke to the outside, before slashing back along the hash marks to go untouched into the end zone.
“That’s been a huge play for us this year,” said Farrell, a senior captain. “Kenny [Kern] and I, once again, going back three years, we’ve been doing it every single day in practice. So it works well for us.”
The play only has a great effect when coupled with the running ability of Sorrento. On Friday, the Hawks incorporated all three elements of their rushing game seamlessly.
“It’s a great show of what we are as a team, with Kenny, Noah, myself, Gaz [Joe Gaziano], receivers catching the ball, we can execute,” Farrell said. “And when you have backs like Kenny, when they think he’s getting the ball all the time and then me with the fakes and whatnot, they don’t get tackled on the first tackle. They keep fighting with every single play.”
Black and blue: The physical contest was not without its struggles.
Raymond (14 carries, 102 yards) eclipsed the 100-yard mark for a third straight game. But the Hawks did well to contain Deroulus’ big-play ability running to the outside.
“We knew when Raymond got the ball, he was going to be running hard – north, south – because he gets that ball and he goes straight,” said Kern, a middle linebacker. “So nobody wants to go straight head-to-head on him, so we gang tackled and grabbed him and drive him back. We knew the whole squad needed to be on him all night.
“And when [Deroulus] had the ball, he’s quick laterally, so we were just trying to run him to the sidelines.”
With big hits doled out on both sides, there were a couple of key injuries incurred during action.
Brockton’s preseason All-State selection Aaron Monteiro, a Boston College commit, suffered an arm injury before the half and did not return. Xaverian’s Mehki Henderson (interception) was hobbled after making a tackle during the second half, while Boxers safety Darien Keith also had to be helped off after making a touchdown-saving effort on Xaverian’s final drive.