DANVERS — Carson Browne certainly ran like this game mattered. The St. John’s Prep defensive front seven certainly swarmed like this game mattered.
The hugs between players, families, coaches, and alumni at midfield after Prep’s 27-14 Thanksgiving win over Catholic Conference rival Xaverian told the story.
Xaverian had taken the last two Turkey Day tangles, and eight of the last nine. The Hawks hold a 32-22 series advantage. But Thursday, it was the Prep that gave itself a chance to raise trophies on back-to-back weeks.
“If you’re here, you see that Thanksgiving still matters quite clearly here,” said Prep coach Brian St. Pierre. “It was a dominant performance. And we’ve got one more left, so that’s the best part.”
No matter how the final chapter plays out against Springfield Central in the Division 1 Super Bowl, the Eagles (10-2) made sure the penultimate game packed a punch.
Playing its starters, the Prep defense smothered the Hawks (7-4) with seven sacks and 14 plays for negative yardage. Aside from touchdown receptions of 52 and 65 yards by Charlie Comella, the Hawks had nothing stirring. Xaverian backs totaled just 14 rushing yards. Henry Hasselbeck was 11 of 21 passing for 227 yards with two scores and a pick.
“I just thought we were better up front,” St. Pierre said. “We’re physical. Senior captain [Michael] Nabbout probably played his best game. He couldn’t be blocked. Our whole defensive front seven was as dominant as I’ve seen them play in maybe forever. They set the tone.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Prep ripped off 27 straight points. It took the lead on a 26-yard field goal from Jackson Selby to make it 10-7 before the half. Selby later hit from 44 yards.
Browne ripped off a 54-yard touchdown run on the first play of the third quarter to make it 17-7. He scored again from 5 yards to make it 24-7, and finished with 201 yards on 28 carries.
“We started slow but we picked it up,” said Browne, a senior from Peabody. “The line played great and gave me a lot to work with. The defense, as well … shut them down and made my job so much easier.”
“It means so much. I haven’t beat [Xaverian]. We lost on the freshman team and lost my sophomore and junior year. Beating them, it feels so good.”