WESTWOOD – St. John’s Prep quarterback Jack Sharrio said the football seemed unusually dry on Thursday, but it sure looked like an eager cook had mistakenly basted the pigskin instead of the bird.
In the lowest scoring game in the 21-year history of the St. John’s Prep and Xaverian holiday matchup, the ball was slipping out on both ends of the field, resulting in eight fumbles, six of which were recovered by the defense.
There was only one big offensive play – a 95-yard touchdown on a catch-and-run from senior Alex Moore — but it led the Eagles to an ugly 9-0 win and the Catholic Conference title.
“We knew they played tough defense,” said Prep coach Jim O’Leary. “But when the time came to get things done — a pass out of the end zone – that’s not what [Xaverian coach Charlie Stevenson] was expecting right there.”
Late in the third quarter the Prep was clinging to a 2-0 lead. A bad snap on a Xaverian punt had led to a safety early in the game.
After the Eagles came away empty on four first-half trips to the red zone — which ended in two failed fourth-down conversions, a lost fumble and an interception – they took over on their 10-yard line late in the third quarter.
O’Leary first called a run to junior Johnathan Thomas, trying to give the offense some room to operate. The Hawks weren’t biting. They stuffed the box and pulled Thomas down for a 5-yard loss.
Enough of that, O’Leary figured. So he took a risk. Moore lined up on the outside with one-on-one coverage. The quarterback checked to him.
Sharrio says he wasn’t nervous. Moore was.
“I’m just thinking, ‘I have to make this catch, because if I don’t make it, a lot of people are going to look down upon me,’ ” he said.
Sharrio dropped back to pass and the Hawks flooded the backfield. He launched the ball about 25 yards and hoped for the best.
The throw was short, but Moore leaped and snagged it around his defender, who fell to the ground. Moore took off down field, ran over the safety, and jetted to the end zone.
“We had one play called, but Coach said if I see a one-on-one matchup I like, I can take it,” said Sharrio.
The Eagles’ defense did the rest, holding the Hawks (4-7) to 126 total yards.
Xaverian senior quarterback Austin DeCarr was 8 for 20 with 84 yards, two interceptions and two lost fumbles as the Prep defensive line went toe to toe with the Maurice Hurst-led D-line of the Hawks. Catholic Conference MVP Hunter Taute was held to 18 yards and a forced fumble on seven carries.
Sharrio was 8 for 10 with 172 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and two lost fumbles for the Prep. Thomas carried 24 times for 133 yards and lost a fumble.
St. John’s Prep (9-1) improved to 9-12 against Xaverian on Thanksgiving and will take on Andover (10-1) in the Division 1 playoffs Tuesday.