WESTWOOD, Mass. – A favorite saying of Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson is that “players make plays.” It’s partially the longtime football coach’s way of deflecting praise to his players.
But in Saturday’s Division 1 South sectional final against Catholic Conference rival BC High, it was an accurate assessment of the Hawks’ performance. Xaverian turned in a complete three-phase effort while taking its second win over the Eagles this season with a 24-10 victory at the Hawk Bowl.
“I think that’s probably the most complete effort we’ve had all year long,” Stevenson said.
With the win, the Hawks (10-0) advance to the state championship game and will face North champion Everett at Gillette Stadium.
Xaverian continued its defensive dominance in the postseason, having played three games without surrendering an offensive touchdown. On the flip side, the Hawks offense was driven by quarterback Jake Farrell who threw for 153 yards on 10 0f 21 passing with two touchdowns.
Although the Hawks never trailed, the contest looked like a defensive struggle through the first half.
Xaverian claimed a 7-0 lead on Kenny Kern’s 6-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. However, the Eagles drew even as Steven Timmins (fumble forced, fumble recovery, two passes defended) returned a fumble recovery 40 yards for a scoop-and-score with 1:32 remaining in the half.
With Xaverian’s final possession of the half, set up by a Nick Allsop fumble recovery, Joe Gaziano boomed a 45-yard field goal with no time remaining in the half. The kick had plenty of room to spare and was made all that much more impressive by the fact that Gaziano hasn’t handled the place kicking duties for the Hawks in recent weeks due to an earlier ankle injury.
“He’s the only one who has the potential to hit a bomb like that, and he hit a bomb right there,” Stevenson said. “It was big lift for us going in at halftime and [with] the ball to come back.”
The Hawks made the hairpin turn by scoring on the opening drive of the second half. Farrell capped a 7-play, 72-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Damion Wood.
“The ball wasn’t where it was supposed to be and he made a great adjustment to it,” Farrell said, “going around the guy and he made a great catch – making me look good.”
The Eagles (5-5) responded with a 31-yard field goal by Jarod Mockus.
Farrell again stepped up to put the game away, extending a broken play with his feet and then hitting a wide open Noah Sorrento (21 carries, 103 yards) on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 5:59 remaining.
Improv at its best: While Farrell ran for 56 yards on the game, he put in about a country mile’s worth of steps. Zig-zagging for first downs and bolstering the Hawks’ running game, Farrell saved his most dazzling footwork for Sorrento’s touchdown pass.
“It was kind of a fluke play, but hey, it worked out for us,” Sorrento said.
After evading several sack attempts in the backfield, Farrell rolled out to his right and found Sorrento releasing into the flat with a ton of real estate ahead of him.
“It just started with pressure coming from wherever it was and just trying to avoid whoever was coming to get me,” Farrell said. “Then, Noah [Sorrento] stepped up, making himself available – he was supposed to blocking on the play, originally.
“I didn’t really do that much. I just dumped it off to him. And there was nobody in sight and he took it in.”
Cause for concern: BC High defensive end/tight end Christian Dallas was taken from the game by ambulance after suffering a head injury in the third quarter. He was later released after observation.
Dallas tallied two sacks in during first-half action.
No let-up: While there’s still several weeks to go before the Hawks’ date Everett in the Division 1 title game, there’s still a Catholic Conference crown to be decided in their Thanksgiving Day duel with St. John’s Prep.
Prep, which lost in Friday night’s Division 1 North final against the Crimson Tide, will look to spoil Xaverian’s designs on a perfect season. But don’t expect the Hawks to be looking ahead to the championship game.
“It’s a Catholic Conference game and it’s the best conference in the state,” Gaziano said, “so we’ve got to play as hard as we can, no matter what we’re doing the next week or elsewhere. We’ve got to play that game like any other.”
He added, “The ’09 team would be laughing at us if we said we were pulling our starters and not trying to do undefeated.”
The Hawks found themselves in a similar position a year ago before meeting Central Catholic in the championship game and, during their yearly tête-à-tête with the Prep, suffered several injuries.
That doesn’t mean anything’s about to change heading into this year’s duel.
“The fans who are coming here aren’t paying ten dollars to watch people just not play football,” Stevenson said.