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The Xaverian-St. John’s Prep rematch will be decided in the trenches

Xaverian senior defensive end Nick Angelini (55) has been one of the Hawks' important veterans in the trenches this season.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

With three seconds left on the clock in a Thanksgiving matchup for a share of the Catholic Conference crown, Xaverian needed a reliable kicking team to execute.

The unit came through, with Penn State-bound long snapper Andrew Dufault delivering a perfect ball to holder Henry Hasselbeck, and Luke Bell nailing the 30-yard field goal to deliver a 23-21 win over St. John’s Prep in Westwood.

Dufault, a senior center and defensive tackle, is one of a number of talented linemen on both sides of the ball in this intense rivalry, which resumes Wednesday (8 p.m.) at Gillette Stadium in the Division 1 Super Bowl.


The first battle was largely decided in the trenches, with Mike O’Connor rumbling for 194 yards and two touchdowns to pace the Hawks, while Xaverian’s defense made key stops against Prep’s powerful rushing attack.

Surrounding Dufault on the defensive line are standout ends Nick Angelini and Micah Amedee, with Brenden Berube, Peter Matheos, and Josh Cohen rotating on the interior. Vincent Busa leads a talented linebacking corps, and sophomore Dave Chiavegato has emerged as a great safety.

“We’re fortunate enough where we can rotate in three or four other guys,” said Xaverian coach Al Fornaro.

“Our guys have to be assignment-perfect,” Fornaro continued. “If they line up incorrectly, if for some reason the defensive tackle is in the wrong gap, well shoot, there goes the back, because the scheme [Prep uses], you can’t afford to make mental mistakes like that. We have to be physical. We have to bring the fight to them as best we can.”

Prep (11-1) has won three of the past four Super Bowls with different approaches, but Eagles this year are strongest up front.

Mason McSweeney, Matt Callahan, Marquese Avery, and John Droggitis all played vital roles in the Prep’s 13-0 Super Bowl win over Springfield Central last December, and those four are back as seniors to anchor a talented defensive front.


Junior Graham Roberts started at left tackle last season, and is now at right tackle alongside senior right guard Wells Gillett, who returned from injury early in the postseason.

“[Roberts] has been the most consistent guy in a group that’s been very consistent, in totality, this year,” said Prep coach Brian St. Pierre. “We put a premium on line play. Both offensively and defensively, we believe in controlling line of scrimmage.

“They’ve done a great job,” St. Pierre continued. “The cohesion and chemistry is good, and when you have running backs and receivers that buy into the scheme, too, that’s how you win. It takes a complete effort.”

When the Eagles line up with 6-foot-3-inch quarterback Jimmy Nardone ready to receive the snap, the opposing defense might know what’s coming, but that doesn’t mean they can stop it.

Nardone has carried 67 times for 369 yards and eight touchdowns, and is a weapon on 2-point conversions as well. Cam LaGrassa (1,145 rushing yards, 12 TDs) has been a workhorse back since Dylan Aliberti went down with a broken leg in Week 7. Junior Jeff Quigley (328 yards, 6 TDs) has emerged recently as a second running option.

“There’s nothing better than the other team knowing we’re going to run and we do it anyways,” said Roberts, whose older brother Dylan was a defensive tackle on Prep’s 2018-19 state title teams.


“We’re a team that likes to put our hand in the dirt, come off the ball, and run the rock. As a right tackle, I couldn’t ask for a better system.”

Xaverian (10-2) has shown multiple looks this season with quarterback Hasselbeck (1,370 passing yards, 627 rushing yards, 25 total touchdowns) serving as a dual-threat, but he will be without top target Jon Monteiro (shoulder) in the Super Bowl.

Senior tailback Denzil Pierre (ankle) could return Wednesday after sitting out on Thanksgiving. If not, O’Connor will look to carry the mail once again after piling up nearly 400 rushing yards in his last two outings against two great defenses.

Defensively, the Hawks know they have a tall task in trying to stop Prep’s running game. With faith in their coaches and defensive scheme, they will look to provide an encore on the biggest stage in high school football.

“Coach Fornaro says we can be as physical as any team, it’s just about having that mental execution,” said Dufault. “This week is entirely new. What’s done is done. Now we’re 0-0 and the season is on the line.”