WESTWOOD, Mass. -- Over the years, Xaverian has won many games with field position and defense.
Saturday at the Hawk Bowl, the hosts dominated both facets of the game in the first half then turned on its offense for a 31-0 rout of Brockton.
No. 4 Xaverian started five first-half possessions on the Boxer side of the field and forced four turnovers - two fumble recoveries and two interceptions - to build a 17-0 halftime edge.
The Hawks have now won five straight in the storied series (leading 15-13 all-time), the longest win streak by either side since the Boxers took the first six when the rivalry was renewed in 1988. It also marked the program’s first shutout win over No. 14 Brockton and largest margin of victory.
Senior kicker Jules Murphy consistently pinned the Boxers back inside their own end and the defense took care of the rest. Brockton gained a total of 116 yards against the Xaverian first-team defense and ran a total of eight plays from scrimmage in Hawk territory.
The Xaverian (3-0) offense, which sputtered at times in the first half and struggled to gain 75 yards against an active Boxer front, found its rhythm in the second half and compiled 197 yards in the final 22 minutes. Senior quarterback Chris Calvanese completed 7-of-12 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown and the Hawks marched 93 yards on 17 plays entirely on the ground to finish off the scoring when Hunter Taute plowed in from a yard out with 2:55 to play.
This one wasn’t pretty for the Boxers (1-2), whose offense was shut out for the second time in three games. The last time Brockton has been shut out at least twice in the same season was 1969.
Some quick-hitters on Xaverian’s historical drubbing of the reeling Boxers:
The Hawks always seem to have good kickers and Murphy certainly can add his name to the list of scholarship-level boots that includes Jon Barker (Syracuse) and Paul Asack (Duke). You can make the case that Murphy was Xaverian’s MVP, although coach Charlie Stevenson gave the game ball to junior guard Ray Gobbi, who is from Brockton. Every single one of Murphy’s kickoffs either went inside the 5-yard line or the end zone. He had a 57-yard punt that helped set up Xaverian’s first touchdown, a drive that started on the Brockton 32. He was also perfect on four PATs and drilled a 38-yard field goal that may have been good from 50. On Xaverian’s final drive, Murphy kicked a 26-yarder but was roughed by a Brockton player and was groggy coming off the field. The Hawks, clearly enraged by the vicious hit on the defenseless player, sent their offense back on the field and went for the score, Taute’s 1-yard run. Murphy came back out, pounded out the PAT and then boomed the ensuing kickoff to the very back of the end zone, where Brockton’s Jesse Monteiro ran it out to the 15. That kickoff may have drawn the loudest ovation from the Hawk sideline.
Stevenson said after the game he isn’t quite satisfied with the offense yet, which struggled to move the ball in the first half before breaking out in the second. But he has to be impressed with where his defense is at the moment. Start with the defensive line, where junior tackle Maurice Hurst Jr. pretty much demands a double team and fellow tackle Kevin Painten and ends Matt Stapleton and Colby Enegren are no slouches. He recovered a fumble on one of two bad exchanges that he forces simply because he is so quick off the snap that it creates a panic-snap from the center. Then you have to account for middle linebacker Hunter Taute, a 6-foot-2, 235-pounder with great feet who is as comfortable in coverage as he is sticking running backs up the gut. And then you have an entirely-new secondary that hasn’t missed a beat despite losing UNH-offered safety Ryan Farrell to injury. Calvanese plays back there now and is doing an excellent job, but can you imagine how good this defense - which has given up 12 points in three games - would be if they had him? Scary. Seniors Zach Maiuri and Mike Warren are also playing terrific in that almost completely inexperienced defensive backfield and sophomore outside linebacker Shayne Kaminski already looks comfortable in a varsity uniform, making an interception in the first half.
The Boxers looked bad Saturday, but there may be hope for the offense if the Boxers can cut out the turnovers. Ball security as a whole was woeful. An improvement in that area alone will do wonders for a unit that has not shown the big-play ability that the program is known for. The defense actually played well in the first half considering how badly its back was against the wall. Still, the overriding challenge for coach Peter Colombo is to somehow keep the morale on this team from falling apart. If this squad has any senior leadership it needs to step up now and keep this season, filled with so much promise in August, from falling apart before October, as the Boxers travel up to Danvers next week to face a just-as-desperate St. John’s Prep team.
Brockton (1-2) 0 0 0 0 - 0
Xaverian (0-3) 7 10 7 7 - 31
X - Zach Maiuri 4 run (Jules Murphy kick)
X - Hunter Taute 3 run (Murphy kick)
X - Murphy 38 FG
X - DJ Pagliuca 47 pass from Chris Calvanese (Murphy kick)
X - Taute 1 run (Murphy kick)