DANVERS — Just one week. That’s all it took for the state’s top team to fall.
No. 1 St. John’s Prep was knocked off by No. 11 Bridgewater-Raynham, 20-14, in a season-opening stunner at Cronin Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Trojans finished 5-6 a year ago, but coach Dan Buron was confident heading into the game. His team’s attitude on the trip to the stadium convinced him that the potential was there for something special to happen.
“I’ve never seen a team so focused. I said, ‘This is a good sign,’ ” Buron said. “[This was] one of the best nonconference wins we’ve had. This is my 21st year, I’m putting this right up there with some of the best. [St. John’s Prep] is a good football team. They’re going to win a lot of football games.
“I’m proud of the kids, it was a great team effort.”
Bridgewater-Raynham senior running back Brandon Gallagher (29 rushes, 124 yards, 1 TD) and junior quarterback Matt Clement (4 for 8, 90 yards, 2 TDs), who was making his first start, were immense,helping the Trojans build a 20-0 halftime lead.
The Eagles made a push in the second half, led by All-Scholastic senior running back Johnathan Thomas (23 rushes, 158 yards, 1 TD). On the first drive of the second half, Thomas burst through the middle for a 6-yard score to cut the deficit to 20-7.
Gallagher’s lone mistake of the day led to the Prep’s second score. The Trojans had just picked off Prep quarterback Michael Geaslen and were trying to kill the clock with just over four minutes remaining. But Gallagher fumbled and the Eagles took over at Bridgewater-Raynham’s 41.
Four plays later, St. John’s was in the end zone. Thomas’s 24-yard run brought the Eagles to within 6 with 2:21 left.
Although the Eagles couldn’t recover the subsequent onside kick, the game wasn’t over yet. The Trojans were poised to go three and out and punt the ball back with 1:10 on the clock. However, the Eagles, who had no timeouts remaining, were called for roughing the punter, giving the Trojans an automatic first down and the game.
“[I was] very relieved, believe me,” said Buron. “I didn’t care if it was the 5- or the 15- [yard penalty]. It was going to give us a first down.”
Bridgewater-Raynham essentially won the game with a dominating first half. On the Trojans’ first drive, they ran 12 plays, covered 69 yards, and took six minutes off the clock. Gallagher, who carried seven times for 56 yards on the drive, topped it off, leaping over a pile of defenders and into the end zone for a 3-yard score.
Clement, who said he “was not nervous at all” making his first start, found senior wide receiver Ryan Martin for a 44-yard strike to make it 14-0.
The Trojans’ final score came with 21 seconds remaining in the half as Clement hooked up with senior running back Arcel Armstead for a 2-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked.