DANVERS, Mass. -- The back-breaker came midway through the second quarter.
After a Chelmsford drive stalled at its own 39-yard line, John Campsmith launched a punt that rolled to the St. John’s Prep 8. Needing a momentum swing with the team down two touchdowns, it appeared Campsmith may have started something for his team. Then, Oliver Eberth handed the ball off to Cody Harwood.
The senior charged off right tackle and broke through the first line of defense. Then it was off to the races. He outran two Chelmsford defensive backs to the end zone for a 92-yard touchdown.
“I ran forward and I ran into a guy and he wrapped me up, but I managed to get away,” said Harwood. “Then I just saw a clear field so I started going. I kept looking back to see if a guy was on me, and then I saw it was a clear day from there.”
He added a 59-yard touchdown run on the second play of the third quarter to help give his team a four-touchdown lead. Prep left the field Saturday afternoon with a 28-0 victory.
“(Cody) has been a great player all year for us, and we’ve just come to expect it from him,” said Prep head coach Brian St. Pierre. “The whole offensive line was unbelievable, I thought they really carried the day on offense.”
Harwood finished the game with nine rushes for 180 yards and three touchdowns. As a team, Prep (7-1) ran for 327 yards. On a day where the weather made it challenging to throw the ball, Prep’s offense showed why the Eagles came into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in Division 1 North.
“I need to credit my offensive line for making those holes,” said the senior. “Half the time I didn’t even have to do anything, I just made the right read and it was open.”
The Eagles’ first touchdown actually came through the air. After its initial pass play was fumbled away in Chelmsford (4-4) territory on its first drive, St. Pierre went back to the air on the first play of his team’s next drive.
Recognizing man-to-man coverage on the outside left receiver, Eberth (5-for-12, 66 yards, TD) threw the ball up to Owen Rockett. He came down with the ball and outran the defender to the end zone for the 40-yard touchdown.
“We’re a balanced team, we want to run it and throw it, throw it and run it,” said St. Pierre. “We don’t really care. Whatever is working is working. The weather is not going to dictate what we do, so we feel confident doing both.”
Prep scored again one minute into the second quarter. After a 9-yard punt gave the Eagles the ball at the Chelmsford 29, Harwood was able to punch it into the end zone from one yard out six plays later.
Two hours after it took the field on a cold and rainy Saturday morning, St. John’s Prep was right where it wanted to be: one game closer to a possible state championship.
Lions sputter: Chelmsford struggled to move the ball offensively against the Prep defense for most of the day. The combination of Saturday’s steady rain and Prep’s defensive pressure made for a long afternoon for the Lions. It had 10 offensive plays that resulted in negative yards, including six sacks of Campsmith (4-of-15, 25 yards).
“I love how our defense played,” said St. Pierre. “We had a great week of practice and I had a really good feeling coming in that our defense was primed. They’re playing the best they have all year and it’s a great time to be doing that.”
Chelmsford’s leading rusher, Nick Philippon, had eight carries for 24 yards. As a team, the Lions did not get their first first down until midway through the second quarter. Campsmith was able to occasionally find running room on the sidelines with quarterback keepers and designed stretch runs, but was unable to escape the Prep pressure when he needed time for plays to develop downfield.
We’ll see you again: With the win, St. John’s Prep advances to play Central Catholic in the second round of the MIAA Division 1 North playoffs. The two teams met in the regular season, which resulted in a 27-12 Prep victory at Cronin Field.
Central advanced with a 28-21 victory over Andover Friday night. Even though it was a two-score victory, the Eagles know they will face a tall task in the next step of the playoffs.
“That game is huge,” said Harwood. “We had a great game with them here the last time we played them, so we’re really looking forward to it. It should be great.”
“We’ve got plenty of time to think about that one,” said St. Pierre in reference to the Central matchup. “We’re going to enjoy this one for now, but we know the challenge ahead of us.”