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High school football | Catholic Memorial 42, St. John's of Shrewsbury 10

Despite a sloppy start, Catholic Memorial was still scary good in its rout of St. John’s Shrewsbury

Catholic Memorial senior QB Conor Fitzgerald (12), makes an open-field breakway run during the fourth quarter of Saturday's 42-10 rout at St. John's Shrewsbury.
Catholic Memorial senior QB Conor Fitzgerald (12), makes an open-field breakway run during the fourth quarter of Saturday's 42-10 rout at St. John's Shrewsbury.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

It should worry the rest of the Catholic Conference that in a game where Catholic Memorial made several mistakes and showed notable rust early on, the Knights still lit up the scoreboard to earn a 32-point lead and a running clock in the fourth quarter of their season opener at Saint John’s of Shrewsbury

On a breezy Saturday afternoon, top-ranked CM committed three first half turnovers and gave up several big runs, but the Knights skill, depth, and the creative play-calling of head coach John DiBiaso facilitated an impressive 42-10 victory.

“I didn’t think we played our best,” said DiBiaso, who took over at CM three years ago after leading Everett to 12 state championships over 26 years.

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“We had some real brain freezes, but when we looked up at the end of the day we had 42 points. And credit our defense, they held a really good team to 10 [points].”

Catholic Memorial (1-0) used speed and misdirection to gash the seventh-ranked Pioneers (0-1) early. Sophomore Datrell Jones took a jet sweep off left tackle for a 6-yard touchdown, and broke a 64-yard touchdown in the second quarter off a reverse handoff.

JC Petrongolo, CM's sophomore starting QB, experienced some opening-game rust before a shoulder injury forced him to hand the baton to senior Conor Fitzgerald.
JC Petrongolo, CM's sophomore starting QB, experienced some opening-game rust before a shoulder injury forced him to hand the baton to senior Conor Fitzgerald.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

While sophomore quarterback JC Petrongolo (9-of-20 passing, 187 yards, 2 TDs) was picked off twice and fumbled twice — losing one — in the first half, the Knights defense responded in kind with Zach Mitchell and Devon Marshall producing timely interceptions.

After Marshall’s interception late in the second quarter, DiBiaso called for a flea flicker and the Knights executed with Petrongolo hitting Mitchell (4 receptions, 104 yards) with a 32-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-3 at the half.

Shrewsbury, MA—03/13/2021—Catholic Memorial senior Zach Mitchell (5) runs the ball into the end zone in the 2nd quarter during a game against St. Johns in Shrewsbury, MA, March 13, 2021.

(Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe)
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Reporter:
Shrewsbury, MA—03/13/2021—Catholic Memorial senior Zach Mitchell (5) runs the ball into the end zone in the 2nd quarter during a game against St. Johns in Shrewsbury, MA, March 13, 2021. (Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe) Topic: Reporter:Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

With junior defensive end Quinn Herlihy leading the way, the Pioneers got consistent pressure on Petrongolo, and their offensive line opened up big holes for junior running back Bobby Rodolakis (18 carries, 161 yards). But the Knights defense stiffened in key moments, holding St. John’s to 1-of-12 on third down conversions.

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“Our defensive backs are very good,” said DiBiaso. “So we have to be strong against the run and we have to be physical up front. That’s going to be the formula people use against us. You look out there and we have five sophomores and three juniors on defense. We’re very young.”

The Knights are young, but talented, on both sides of the ball. Along with Jones, sophomore running back Carson Harwood tallied two touchdowns and sophomore wide receiver Kole Osinubi produced a 16-yard touchdown reception to make it 28-3 early in the third quarter.

After SJS responded with a 1-yard touchdown run from Ryan Coonan, CM marched right down the field in the double wing formation DiBiaso has employed quite often in recent years. After Petrongolo was sidelined by a shoulder injury, senior Conor Fitzgerald stepped in and led Knights on two more scoring drives to put the outcome beyond doubt.

“Our skill guys are pretty good, so it’s tough to match up with all four,” said DiBiaso. “And then we have a few real good running backs on top of that. It’s kind of a plethora of talent. So the QB is like the point guard of a good basketball team, he just has to get the ball to the right guys.”