DANVERS — There were plenty of standouts in Saturday’s rematch of 2018 Division 1 state finalists Catholic Memorial and host St. John’s Prep, but Zach Mitchell stood a cut above the rest.
Catholic Memorial’s junior wide receiver and defensive back racked up three touchdown receptions — including a 61-yard score that proved to be the winner in a thrilling 34-32 Knights’ victory at Glatz Field — along with an interception and a forced fumble.
“It’s something special,” Mitchell said. “We haven’t beaten [Prep] in [eight] years, so knowing we did something special today feels good to me.”
St. John’s Prep (5-1, 0-1 Catholic Conference) had won eight consecutive meetings with its conference rival dating back to 2011, including a 40-22 victory in the D1 Super Bowl last December.
For Catholic Memorial (6-0, 3-0), this is the first win at Prep since 2008, and a victory made even sweeter due to the fact that Knights starting quarterback Barrett Pratt was inactive due to a knee injury.
CM coach John DiBiaso used four different players under center depending on the situation, but it was freshman JC Petrongolo (11 for 19, 267 yards, four touchdowns) leading the committee with several clutch throws.
The Quincy resident started slow, but found Mitchell for a 16-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter to give the Knights their first lead, 14-7. After Mitchell forced a fumble, Petrongolo hooked up with Daniel Lopes four times for 55 yards, with the junior receiver hauling in an acrobatic 14-yard touchdown reception with 17 seconds left in the half to give the Knights a 21-7 lead.
With new addition Colby Spencer leading the way, CM held Prep to just 36 rushing yards in the first half. Forced to take to the air, the defending champs responded quickly with Matt Crowley (11 for 19, 302 yards, four touchdowns) hitting Matt Duchemin (five receptions, 172 yards, two touchdowns) for an 88-yard score on the third play of the second half.
Crowley added clutch scoring strikes to Jackson Delaney (three receptions, 96 yards, two touchdowns), but Petrongolo and Mitchell responded in kind, as the freshman threaded the ball into double coverage on third and 32 for an unlikely 61-yard touchdown that gave the Knights a 34-26 lead with 5:05 remaining.
After a 31-yard scoring strike from Crowley to Duchemin in the closing minutes, Prep couldn’t complete a 2-point conversion, and the Knights were able to run out the clock with Owen McGowan under center in their Wing-T formation.
“It hurts when you play an even game, you miss an extra point and it’s amazing it comes down to that,” said Prep coach Brian St. Pierre. “I hope we get the opportunity to see [CM] again [in the Super Bowl]. They’ll be there. Hopefully we can be too. We’re trying to be a good team and this was a good experience for us.”
For DiBiaso, surviving a Super Bowl rematch with injuries to key players is also a good sign going forward.
“It’s important moving forward, because it’s a long season, and with the 12-minute quarters, you’re going to get injuries,” said DiBiaso. “Stuff happens. There’s going to be times you put other guys in and it’s really good that we’ve developed a little depth now.
“As far as high school football games go, this is as good as it gets.”
Nate Weitzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.