FOXBOROUGH — Observing the St. John’s Prep football team celebrate its Division 1 Super Bowl crown on the Gillette Stadium turf late Saturday night, it became clear what type of football player Aise Pream is.
The senior running back from Dracut was the last of his teammates to rise from the ground following a jubilant team photo. Gingerly, Pream hobbled to where the rest of his teammates had congregated, roaming the outskirts of one last team huddle as he assessed the damage to his lower right leg.
Like a grizzled boxer, Pream sustained blow after blow in a grueling 40-22 championship victory over Catholic Memorial. He did so in high style, slipping tackles to the tune of 155 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He snatched a seemingly seismic interception late in the second quarter, halting the Knights’ biggest run.
He battled, just like everyone on his team knew he would.
“It’s amazing,” St. John’s coach Brian St. Pierre said. “He’s a football player. That’s what we are; that’s what we do. He wouldn’t change anything right now, and he’s probably not going to walk right for another month or so. We love him.
“Aise is as tough as they come. He’s had a great career.”
Pream is small by football standards — 5 feet 7 inches and 150 pounds. Yet he managed to log playing time on the varsity squad as an underclassman, getting work in the offensive and defensive backfields and making an impression.
In his junior year, Pream honed another skill, one that was crucial to Prep’s D1 conquest a year later — he became a leader.
“I’d say my junior year, that’s when I started becoming a leader,” Pream said. “We didn’t have that many seniors last year and coming into this year with that leadership role really made a difference.”
Things were chugging along smoothly this season until Pream suffered a high right ankle sprain in Week 6 against BC High. He tested his gimpy leg on a few occasions throughout the D1 North playoffs, but was unable to stay on the field for extended periods and was rendered largely ineffective.
Pream stayed focused on the prize. To do so, he had to make sure his ankle received enough rest not to fail him on Saturday evening.
Mission accomplished, and then some.
Pream opened the scoring with a stunning touchdown run indicative of his talent and toughness. Beginning at the CM 6-yard line, Pream followed a block and slithered up the middle before steering left. He withstood a massive blow from a defender seemingly twice his size, and gathered himself within inches of the turf before springing back up and into the end zone for 6.
Pream kept on chugging late in the first quarter as his 35-yard scamper down the right sideline set up a field goal for a 9-0 Prep advantage.
Yet it was his play on defense that left perhaps the greatest mark on the contest. After adding another touchdown for a 16-point advantage, the Eagles ceded 14 points and possession. Catholic Memorial set off on a drive to take the lead for the first time.
Pream had other ideas, leaving his man over the middle and jumping a route on the outside, snaring Barrett Pratt’s pass with a mighty leap. The turnover led to yet another field goal for St. John’s Prep.
“It was a game-changer,” Pream said. “They had momentum but we took it right back after that.”
The game remained close until midway through the fourth quarter, when Pream became reacquainted with the end zone under the Gillette Stadium jumbotron. This time from 5 yards, Pream hit his defender with a nasty sidestep, bouncing across the goal line to give St. John’s Prep a 33-22 lead.
The rest was a formality.
“It’s my last year,” Pream said with a grin after the game. “We were talking about this since freshman year, making it to this place. All the injuries we’ve had, we’ve bonded. We’ve truly came out here and played with our hearts out.”
Clearly still in pain, Pream acknowledged he might not feel fully healthy for a bit. But what does that matter when you have a trophy?
“It’s very sore,” he said. “Preserving it [was difficult], but it helped for this game.
“We got what we wanted.”Owen Pence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.