It may not be a state championship, but for the seniors on Xaverian’s roster, a 14-12 win over St. John’s Prep at Fenway Park for the Catholic Conference title meant nearly as much.
Playing in front of a sizable crowd on a cold Wednesday evening, Xaverian (8-2, 3-0 Catholic Conference) earned the win in trademark style. The clinching play came on a physical run from senior Mike Masse, who pushed the pile 6 yards for a game-clinching first down.
“Our object was to shorten the game and limit [Prep’s] chances,” Xaverian coach Al Fornaro said.
“When push came to shove, we were able to shove a little bit more than they could push.”
With six straight Thanksgiving wins over Prep, Xaverian holds a 30-21 edge in the rivalry. The Hawks also clinched their fifth conference title in six years.
“We wanted to bounce back,” said Xaverian senior captain Cooper DeVeau (5 catches, 76 yards), who caught a 15-yard screen pass for a first down on the final drive.
“Losing to [Catholic Memorial in the D1 South final] was tough, but we knew we could win a Catholic Conference championship. It’s not a state championship, but it’s a great way to go out, as a senior.”
While St. John’s Prep (9-2, 2-1) moves on to face CM in the Division 1 Super Bowl Dec. 1, it does little to alleviate the sting of this loss.
“This game was bigger than the Super Bowl to us,” Prep coach Brian St. Pierre said.
“[Xaverian] didn’t stop us all day, we stopped ourselves. We made too many mistakes. It was as frustrating a game as I’ve ever coached, but we have to get over it.”
In the first quarter, Xaverian capitalized on a Prep fumble with a five-play, 49-yard scoring drive, capped by Michael Berluti’s 10-yard scramble.
After a Lucas Ferraro sack, Xaverian again constructed a five-play scoring drive with Masse scoring on an inside handoff from 8 yards.
Then Wes Rockett gave the Eagles life by returning a punt 45 yards for a touchdown thanks in part to a monstrous block from senior linebacker James Hanley, trimming the deficit to 14-6 by halftime.
Rockett (9 catches, 96 yards) and fellow senior Max Freedman (4 catches, 93 yards) moved the Eagles into scoring position and junior Nick Masterson caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Matt Crowley to make it 14-12 late in the third quarter. Yet Crowley and Rockett failed to connect on a 2-point conversion attempt.
With 8:30 remaining, Prep turned over Xaverian on downs and Crowley led a five-minute, 65-yard drive to the 20-yard line.
Despite missing injured senior captains Trevor Carroll (shoulder) and Michael Saliba (knee), the Hawks defense came through, as sophomore Luke Thorbahn broke up a pass on fourth down.
“They cease to be sophomores after three games, they’re just varsity players,” Fornaro said. “[Thorbahn] got turned around a few times, but when he had to, he made a big play.”
“Some people say that Thanksgiving games don’t mean anything,” Fornaro continued. “Those people don’t know the first thing about football. You think this didn’t mean anything to the people here? Please don’t tell me this isn’t important. This is important.”
Nate Weitzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.