Boston High School: Pat Ryan

D2 final: Mansfield 28, St. John's (S) 14

December, 7, 2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Not only did Mansfield enter Saturday’s Division 2 state championship against St. John’s (Shrewsbury) minus its injured leading receiver, Brendan Hill, but the Hornets also turned the ball over five times – in the first half alone.

Even though the Hornets only trailed 14-7 at halftime, a repeat of that performance quite likely would have resulted in a Pioneers victory.

Not quite.

“We were in a big, big hole,” Mansfield coach Mike Redding said after his team rallied for an improbable 28-14 victory. “We did everything we could to give it away.

“I thought the big difference was twice when we turned it over in our own end, we came up with stops or this thing would have gotten away from us in a hurry.”

The plays that Redding cited each occurred in the second quarter.

St. John’s Derek Houde recovered a Miguel Villar-Perez fumble at the Pioneers 20. But Mansfield’s Connor Finerty planted Shane Combs for no gain on fourth-and-one from Mansfield’s 23.

Then, after the Pioneers’ Pat Ryan recovered a “pooch kick” that deflected off a Hornet at the Mansfield 17, Aurian Dawkins intercepted an Andrew Smiley pass in the end zone.

Cool, calm and collected: Those plays had much to do with the Hornets’ mindset during intermission.

“We felt pretty good at halftime because we had moved the ball and we hadn’t punted,” Redding said. “We were only down seven. To turn it over five times against a team like this and be down seven, we felt like we still had a good shot at winning it.

“This group has a lot of character. Nobody was rattled at halftime. We felt pretty good and we came to play in the second half on defense.”

Granted, Mansfield (13-0) held St. John’s (9-4) to a modest 161 yards of total offense in the second half. But if there was one sequence that reflected the Hornets’ character it was the one that began at the tail end of the third quarter with Mansfield leading, 21-14.

Commencing on the last play of that period, Mansfield chewed up 68 yards of Gillette Stadium real estate on 13 plays and took a whopping 7:49 off the clock.

The drive culminated with Villar-Perez (18 carries for 120 yards) busting through the right side from the 3 for the game-clinching touchdown.

“I think that was the most crucial drive we’ve had,” Mike Hershman said. “It took up a good portion of the fourth quarter so we kept our defense off the field.

“It was big for us. We just wanted to execute and try not to give their offense another chance to score. To melt so much of the clock and punch it in at the end was perfect.”

Hershman was one of several Hornets who “executed.”

Besides running for 66 yards and one touchdown on eight carries, he also caught six passes for 77 yards.

“We executed very well on offense (Mansfield amassed 384 yards of total offense) and on defense I was trying to give everything I had,” Hershman said. “This was the last game and I wanted to leave it all on the field.”

Fast start: Mansfield began the game with a 66-yard-, 10-play drive that ended with Alex Ruddy diving over from the 2. But St. John’s countered with a 66-yard drive that culminated with Smiley sneaking over from the 1.

The Pioneers took what proved to be their last lead, 14-7, after Jacob Byczko recovered a Mansfield fumble. Shane Combs (14 carries for 100 yards) sped 19 yards to the end zone.

Mansfield’s Mike Barresi intercepted a Smiley pass three plays into the third quarter and that set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Alex Ruddy. But Alex Thompson was wide right on the ensuing PAT so St. John’s still led 14-13.

No problem.

After St. John’s went three-and-out, Mansfield marched 59 yards with Chris Buchanan blasting over from the 8 and Villar-Perez bulling his way for a two-point conversion.

“It was a very professional-like halftime without a lot of hollering,” Redding said. “We just wanted to keep it going, hold onto the ball and get some stops,” Redding said. “The goal was to have a tie or a lead going into the fourth and we managed to do it.

“To win a championship you have to play defense, which we did in the second half, and you’ve got to be able to run the ball (Mansfield gained 299 yards on the ground) and we did that as well. We’re known for our passing. But today was about defense and running the football.”


MANSFIELD (13-0) 7-0-14-7 - 28

ST. JOHN’S (9-4 ) 7-7-0-0 - 14

First quarter

M – Alex Ruddy 2 run (Alex Thompson kick)

S – Andrew Smiley 2 run (John Coveney kick)

Second quarter

S – Shane Combs 19 run (Coveney kick)

Third quarter

M – Ruddy 11 run (kick failed)

M – Chris Buchanan 8 run (Miguel Villar-Perez run)

Fourth quarter

M – Villar-Perez 3 run (Thompson kick)

No. 11 SJS looking for answers on defense

August, 29, 2013

St. John's of Shrewsbury will look to reclaim its spot atop Central Mass., and will lean on one of the state's best quarterbacks to do so.

Andrew Smiley took the region by storm in 2012, setting the Central Mass single-season passing record in his first year as the Pioneers' starter. Now a senior, Smiley will again lead the St. John's "Blur" attack, an offense similar to the no huddle scheme Chip Kelly made famous at the University of Oregon.

With a combination of numerous receiver sets, a zone read style option attack and break neck pacing, the Pioneers should again boast one of the best attacks in state.

But, there is the issue of defense…

Last season, the Pioneers gave up over 29 points per game, and allowed opponents to score 33 points or more each week during a mid-season four game losing streak. The defense did show flashes, and finished the year strong, allowing only a touchdown to rival St. Peter-Marian and 19 points in the first round of the CMass playoffs against Wachusett.

Coach John Andreoli knows his group has a ways to go on that side of the ball, but he's been encouraged by what he's seen so far in camp, and during the Pioneers’ scrimmage with state power Brockton.

"Our one's against (Brockton's) one's, I think it was pretty much a stalemate (Monday)," Andreoli said. "We've had a great week of practice… Particularly, working against our offense every day, it gives us something to work against that's a pretty good test."

One player that should help the Pioneers thrive on both sides is receiver/defensive back Davon Jones. The talented junior is expected to be Smiley's go-to receiver on offense, and close passing lanes in a hurry as a ball-hawking safety on defense.

A two-sport star that excels on the hardwood for the Pioneer basketball team, Jones' physicality and intelligence have caught the eye of his coach.

"First of all, (Jones) is a football player," Andreoli said. "He's always around the ball, and he's a physical kid on both sides of the ball. His yards after catch are yards that he earned by grinding it out and being physical… I think he's just continuing to develop as a player, and there's no doubt he has a real high ceiling, just on his football IQ and ability to play the game physically."

While St. John's always has numerous high profile games, they don't get much bigger than the season opener at rival Leominster. The Blue Devils have bested the Pioneers in the last two Division 1 Central Mass Super Bowls, and won their last four overall against St. John's.

Leominster scored 79 points in two games against St. John's last season, so that improving defense will be tested immediately.

Coach: John Andreoli (8th year, 66-18 overall)
Last Season: 8-5, Lost in Div. 1 Central Super Bowl.
Key Returnees: Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, Davon Jones, Jr. WR/DB, Pat Ryan, Jr. LB, Jeff DeMango, Jr. DE.
Strengths: Experience at quarterback and speed at the skill positions.
Weaknesses: Inexperience and inconsistency on defense.
Overview: St. John's has, potentially, one of the best QB-WR duos in the state in Smiley and Jones, but will need to replace running back Shadrach Abrokwah and receivers Micah Cummins and John Giacoppe. Having a senior quarterback and a scheme that gives defenses no time to rest should help, but Smiley was hit early and often in a scrimmage against Brockton Monday, and he forced a few throws into coverage. But we'll chalk that up to early season growing pains, and assume an offense that averaged over 38 points per game last season will figure things out. Surprisingly, the defense was the star of the scrimmage, forcing three different “three-and-outs” and a turnover against the Boxers. The Pioneer defensive front isn't huge, but it holds the point of attack and has the speed to string out runs to the outside. If the Pioneer defense continues to improve, it could be a banner year for St. John's in brutal Division 2.