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Ground game lifts St. John’s Prep over Chelmsford

SJ Prep’s Cody Hardwood stiff arms Chelmsford’s Kevin Xu in Prep’s win Saturday.Mark Lorenz for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance
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DANVERS — With rainy and raw conditions in the forecast, Cody Harwood had a feeling he would be getting the ball quite a bit Saturday afternoon. As St. John’s Prep’s featured running back, he knew the Eagles would depend on him to protect the ball and keep the offense moving.

But Prep coach Brian St. Pierre didn’t exactly let him in on the game plan.

“With the rain, I knew it was more likely that we’d be doing more running than passing,” said Harwood. “But he never really tells you that, he tries to keep it a secret what we’re doing.”


Once the game started, it was clear that Harwood was the Eagles’ go-to guy. The senior rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns — on just 10 carries — to lift the Prep to a 28-0 win over Chelmsford in a Division 1 North quarterfinal at Cronin Stadium.

“He’s been a great player all year for us,” said St. Pierre. “We’ve just come to expect it from Cody.”

Junior Dillon Preston added 90 yards on 12 carries. Harwood, who had touchdown runs of 1, 92, and 59 yards, praised his blockers for the success of the run game.

“I need to credit my offensive line for making those holes,” he said. “Half of the time I didn’t even have to do anything, I just made the right read and it was open.”

The Prep’s defensive line also dominated. It shut down Chelmsford quarterback Jack Campsmith, sacking him six times and holding him to just 26 yards passing (4 for 14). The Lions’ other big weapon, running back Nick Philippon, rushed for only 24 yards on eight carries.

St. John’s Prep didn’t allow a first down until midway through the second quarter and provided the offense with tremendous field position all game.


“I loved how our defense played,” said St. Pierre. “We had a great week of practice; I had a really good feeling coming in that our defense was primed. They’re playing the best that they have all year and it’s a good time of the year to be doing that.”

All four of the Prep’s scoring drives lasted six plays or fewer. Two touchdowns came on the first play of a drive — Oliver Eberth’s 35-yard strike to Owen Rockett that opened the scoring in the first quarter and Harwood’s 92-yard touchdown, in which he broke a tackle at the line and pulled away from the defense.

The Eagles’ final scoring drive — on the first possession of the second half — lasted just two plays, with Harwood scurrying for a 59-yard touchdown.

“I was pleased with our focus,” said St. Pierre. “Any time you play in conditions like this you’re not really sure, it can be a mixed bag.”

Second-seeded St. John’s Prep (7-1) will host third-seeded Central Catholic (7-1) Saturday in the semifinals. The Prep handed the Raiders their lone loss of the season, 27-12, on Sept. 20.

“We’ve got plenty of time to think about that,” said St. Pierre. “We’re going to enjoy this one, but we know the challenge ahead of us.”