WESTWOOD — Through a thrilling 47 minutes, the classic Catholic Conference rivalry was still yet to be decided. After a Stephon Patrick touchdown with 47 seconds left brought the game within one, St. John’s Prep coach Brian St. Pierre sent his offense back on the field to try and win the game.
Junior Matt DeFeo made the biggest play of the season for Xaverian, getting to Prep quarterback Jack Perry in the backfield and forcing a fumble to seal the outcome of a 36-35 victory for the Hawks.
“Matt’s a fantastic player, he’s a 100 percenter, and he’ll go to the point of exhaustion which sometimes isn’t a good thing,” said Xaverian head coach Al Fornaro, “And for me the great thing is, he’s only a junior.”
After being down 14 in the fourth, Prep showed excellent toughness to battle back and put themselves in position to win the game, scoring two touchdowns in the final 11 minutes.
Both senior quarterbacks controlled the game from start to finish. Prep’s Jack Perry threw for 328 yards and added four passing touchdowns along with one rushing score.
Xaverian’s Jake Gilbert put on a show with his arm and his feet, rushing for 135 yards while passing for 205. He finished with one passing touchdown and four rushing scores.
Gilbert’s best play of the day turned out to be the game-winning touchdown on a 34 yard scamper to give Xaverian a 36-22 lead in the third quarter.
While they weren’t able to capture their first state championship since 2015 this year, the Hawks achieved the next best thing: beating their rivals in a Thanksgiving classic that will be remembered for years to come.
“Emotion always plays a huge part in this game,” said Fornaro, “You can’t get too emotional because things can go a little bit goofy, but they were able to stay within themselves and still play with great passion.”