LAWRENCE — After taking their licks last week, Central Catholic delivered the punishment in a physical battle with St. John’s Prep Friday night to emerge with a 17-7 victory.
Central (1-1) fell, 38-0, to Springfield Central last Friday in a rematch of the Division 1 Super Bowl, and the Raiders responded with a hard week of practice to set the tone for their matchup against regional rival St. John’s Prep.
“Last week we got punched in the mouth,” said Central Catholic senior captain Preston Zinter. “The team was kind of down, but we brought the energy Monday [in practice] and it set the tone for the rest of the week.”
The Raiders scored on their opening drive when Mathias Latham (11 carries, 61 yards, 2 TD) got to the edge for a 3-yard touchdown.
From there, Zinter and his teammates took charge on the defensive end. The Notre Dame-bound linebacker stripped Eagles senior Joenel Aguero, a Georgia commit, and recovered the fumble to stop Prep’s initial drive.
Central junior safety Mason Bachry came up with an interception on Prep’s next possession, and Zinter opened the second half with a leaping interception to deny the Eagles any momentum.
“We came in expecting a challenge and all the guys got up for it,” said Zinter. “We got bullied up front last week and this week our front seven knew we had to come out and play violent. We wanted to play low, play fast, and win up front.”
Late in the third quarter, Central’s rushing attack got back on track with Markys Bridgewater (8 carries, 79 yards) providing a spark to set up Latham’s second score, this one from 15 yards out.
Aguero gave Prep life with an electrifying 90-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the third quarter, and the Eagles were able to drive to the plus 20-yard line midway through the fourth when a botched snap doomed their scoring opportunity.
Central responded with a methodical 79-yard drive that took 5:34 off the clock before Mike Ryan kicked a 23-yard field goal to effectively seal the victory.
“[The Eagles] have awesome receivers, so we didn’t want to give up the home run,” said Central coach Chuck Adamopoulos. “The kids on defense just played their butts off, and offensively we did what we needed to do.”
“We weren’t happy with last week. We didn’t compete like we normally do. This was a really good way to bounce back. We needed this win.”