Xaverian and St. John’s Prep gathered in the shadow of the Green Monster with the Catholic Conference title on the line and a chance to make memories that will last a lifetime in the first high school football game at Fenway Park since 1935.
Xaverian’s memories will be a little sweeter after the Hawks scored two touchdowns in under a minute late in the first half for a 14-0 victory before 9,500 in attendance.
The Hawks (11-0) captured their third straight Catholic Conference championship and extended their winning streak to 23.
“This venue was phenomenal,” Xaverian coach Charlie Stevenson said. “No other team in Xaverian history has had the opportunity to play here at Fenway Park, so I’m really glad that we were able to get the win for the great tradition that we have.
“The crowd was just unbelievable. I don’t think I’ve seen a bigger high school football crowd anywhere, even at Gillette.”
The defending Division 1 champion Hawks will be at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 5 to battle Central Catholic in the Super Bowl.
“I told our team this week, we had 303 teams start playing football in August. Only one is playing at both Fenway and Gillette,” Stevenson said. “That’s a great way for our team to end their season and our seniors to end their careers.”
A smothering defense propelled Xaverian once again. The unit delivered its seventh shutout of the season and forced four turnovers, three of which were interceptions.
“With a defense like we have, it makes it a lot easier,” said Xaverian quarterback Mike Pina. “Our offense is able to set up our defense and our defense is able to set up our offense.”
The Hawks’ offense got things started shortly before halftime. St. John’s Prep appeared to have a long first down play to its 38-yard line, but it was negated on an illegal substitution penalty.
“The call right before half really hurt us,” Prep coach Brian St. Pierre said. “It changed the complexion of the game.”
The Prep ran two more plays from its 6-yard line after the penalty but went nowhere and were forced to punt.
After Peter Thorbahn’s 15-yard return, Xaverian took over at the Prep 11. Three plays later, Pina lofted one up to senior Coby Tippett, who hauled it in for a 10-yard touchdown with the tips of his toes just inside the white line. It was Pina’s lone completion.
“I found Coby in the corner of the end zone and he was able to make a great catch on that. I wasn’t sure at first if he got two in, but I was pumped when I found out it was a touchdown,” said Pina, whose team at the time had just 27 total yards of offense to the Prep’s 69.
Two plays later, junior linebacker Colin Lama intercepted a pass over the middle and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 Xaverian lead with 46 seconds left before the half.
“That was the whole game today,” Stevenson said. “You could boil the game down to two minutes.”
Even in defeat, St. John’s Prep (8-3) appreciated the chance to play on such a historic field.
“What a setting for the kids,” St. Pierre said. “I thought it was a great crowd. It was awesome, the field was in great shape.
“It was an exciting experience for the coaches and players alike.”