DANVERS, Mass. -- Xaverian fought through adversity on Thanksgiving Day to hold off a fierce upset bid by Catholic Conference rival St. John’s Prep. The Hawks lost four players, including star running back Shayne Kaminski to injury in the first half, but prevailed in the second half for a 28-22 victory over the Eagles, securing the Catholic Conference title.
“The Prep came out hard like we expected them to. It was just a matter of who wanted it more and today we wanted it more,” said Xaverian junior quarterback Jake Farrell.
Kaminski got the Hawks off on the right foot as the senior jolted up the sideline for a 90-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage for the Hawks. The score stood 6-0 after a failed extra point attempt.
“The [second] play of the game we had a big play from Shayne [Kaminski],” Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson said. “He went 90 yards for a touchdown and then after that things went a little south for us in terms of injuries. We lost some key guys early on in Shayne, Kenny [Kern] and John Dean, and were playing with a lot of subs out there.”
The tide quickly turned as injuries mounted for Stevenson’s team. After forcing a St. John’s fumble on the goal line, Xaverian fumbled the ball one play later, leading to a safety.
Michael Fawehinmi returned the ensuing free kick 75 yards for a touchdown and all the momentum had swung the way of the Eagles. St. John’s running back Cody Harwood broke free for a 46-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to extend the Eagles lead to 10.
“Whenever something bad happens, it just tumbles out of control,” said Farrell. “They had us on our heels. It was a matter of whether we could pick ourselves back up.”
Pick themselves up they did. The turning point in the game was a 60-yard touchdown bomb from Farrell to Damion Wood to cut the St. John’s Prep lead to three heading to halftime. It allowed the Hawks to gain some confidence and get back in the game before the second half.
“We’ve been trying to get that going for a couple weeks now,” said Farrell. “[Wood] is a great athlete and we finally got him going. I just threw it up there and he jumped up, hauled it down and took it in.”
Billy Leroux gave the visitors the 20-16 lead after the break with a five-yard score on the ground, but Jim O’Leary’s team answered back.
Eagles quarterback Mike Geaslen capped off a nice drive by rolling out to the right and finding Jack Lambert for the touchdown. The Eagles failed to convert the extra point, but the Prep had taken the 22-20 lead with just over two minutes to play in the game.
Xaverian would not be deterred as Farrell led his team down the field with a beautiful series. The junior signal-caller was a perfect 5-for-5 on the drive. His touchdown pass to A.J. King with just 28 seconds left gave the Hawks a 28-22 lead after a successful two-point conversion.
“Everyone was counting on me to get it done and I didn’t want to let my teammates down and they didn’t want to let me down. It was a group effort. The offensive line – that last drive was a credit to them. They were amazing,” said Farrell of the game-winning march down the field.
“At the end of the game we were playing with our fifth, sixth and seventh linebackers, but they gave us enough to win the football game,” Stevenson said. “I guess that’s what being a good team is all about. That was a great win for us. I’m really proud of our guys overcoming adversity, sticking with it and bringing the win home for us.”
Despite the loss O’Leary recognized what a great game it was: “It was back and forth. It was one of the classic games we have with Xaverian every year. It’s why people come. It was a very physical game today.”
The season is over for St. John’s Prep, but Xaverian has one last game against Central Catholic at Gillette Stadium to decide the Division 1 state title.
“We just have to work with what we have,” Farrell said. “Obviously, we hope that Shayne [Kaminski] and Kenny get better. They might be back or they might not, but we had a bunch of guys step up today and play really well. We got to see what we can do with that.”