St. John’s Prep coach Brian St. Pierre knew he would have an abundance of youth when the 2016 season commenced.
What the former NFL quarterback may not have anticipated is just how calmly his young group would adjust to the pace of games.
In a 33-29 squeaker over Haverhill last Saturday, No. 7 St. John’s Prep played with the poise of a team beyond its years.
Now, No. 4 Central Catholic looms Saturday in Danvers. For a group unburdened by the expectations of more experienced counterparts, each week is an opportunity to become more cohesive while making a lasting impact.
“Every week, we are a big game to our opponent, just as much as they are to us,” said junior quarterback Mike Yarin, whose first-ever start at the position came in the opener. “Every week we come in with that mentality.”
Yarin, who replaced last year’s decorated starter, Oliver Eberth, embodies Prep’s youth movement, as well as the culture St. Pierre continues to cultivate.
“He’s been a great leader so far,” said sophomore running back Aise Pream, who made his varsity debut against Haverhill. “There’s no weakness with him when he’s on the field.”
Already verbally committed to play baseball at UConn, Yarin wasn’t allowed by his parents to play football in the years leading up to high school.
“I always loved football,” he said. “I like football just as much as I like baseball.”
Now, after just two seasons under his belt, Yarin finds himself leading one of the state’s top programs.
“He’s definitely progressed faster than I thought he would,” said St. Pierre. “He’s an athlete. I started slowly with him because you never know. Everything I’ve thrown at him, he’s handled really well. It’s a testament to the athlete and competitor he is.”
For Yarin, the opportunity to learn from someone with such knowledge of the position has been priceless.
“I’ve probably learned in about three weeks to a month as much as other QBs learn in a few years,” Yarin said. “He has as much knowledge at the quarterback position, from a coaching standpoint, as anyone in the state.”
Yarin threw for two touchdowns and added a third on the ground in his debut under center, including a 65-yard bomb to senior Hayden Rockett.
It was Pream, however, who keyed the Eagles’ fourth-quarter surge, scoring twice in the final 11 minutes, including on the winning drive.
“The feeling was really good out there,” Pream said. “We all connected and followed our game plan. I was prepared for it.”
Against a 3-4 Central Catholic defense that showed elite speed on the edges in a convincing opening win over Reading, Yarin, Pream, and the entire Prep offense will have to be even quicker with their reads on Saturday. Central Catholic senior defensive backs Johandy Gonzalez and Mathias Villafane are both expected to see time across from Rockett, who helped lead a thrilling comeback in last year’s 22-16 victory over the Raiders.
“Rockett is a major threat whenever he gets the ball,” said Central Catholic coach Chuck Adamopoulos. “We know he’s a challenge. I thought our secondary played really well last week. This week presents another challenge.”
While Central Catholic-St. John’s Prep highlights Saturday’s slate, Friday night features a handful of high-stakes matchups.
No. 11 Andover hosts No. 5 Billerica, as the Golden Warriors look to redeem themselves following a 61-39 drubbing at the hands of BC High in Week 1. Coach E.J. Perry left his starting unit in the entire game, despite trailing by 43 points late in the third quarter.
Xaverian, the state’s top-ranked team, will put its 25-game winning streak on the line at No. 18 Bridgewater-Raynham. Xaverian survived a tough test against No. 2 Everett last Saturday behind the stellar play of senior linebacker Colin Lama.
Elsewhere, Holbrook-Avon returns after forfeiting its Week 1 game because of a lack of practice time for its small roster. The Bulldogs are ready to go for Week 2 and will travel to Old Colony Saturday afternoon.