LAWRENCE – In a Division 1 North final in which neither offense could find traction, visiting St. John’s Prep simply used brute strength to break through for a 14-0 victory over Central Catholic on a chilly day at Lawrence Veterans Memorial Stadium.
For the first time in program history, Prep (9-1) will play in consecutive Super Bowls. And once again, the Eagles will look to top South champion Catholic Memorial (10-0) in the D1 state title game on Saturday, Dec. 7, at Gillette Stadium.
“They’re a super talented team,” St. John’s Prep coach Brian St. Pierre said of CM, which edged his Eagles, 34-32, during the regular season. “We’ve got our hands full, but we’re excited for the challenge, and excited to be back.”
The first half opened with six punts, two turnovers on downs, an interception, and a missed field goal, as the quarterbacks combining to go 2-for-24 on their pass attempts.
In the final minutes of the second quarter, Prep capitalized on great field position with a 26-yard scoring drive, capped by a 5-yard touchdown run from Pat Nistl (9 carries, 36 yards).
“We couldn’t throw the ball,” said St. Pierre. “[Quarterback] Matt [Crowley] had an uncharacteristic day. We put the onus on the offensive line to grind it out and they were unbelievable. It became a slugfest and with our defense playing so well, we just wanted to wear on [Central].”
Central Catholic (8-2) managed to stop Prep on fourth down with an interception from Nick Donatio in the end zone, but the Raiders only had two possessions in the second half and managed just 61 total yards from scrimmage.
The Eagles controlled the clock with Nistl and sophomore James Guy (33 carries, 137 yards) pounding the ball between the tackles. On fourth-and-inches from the Central Catholic 3, Crowley pushed the pile into the end zone for a touchdown and, with the ensuing successful extra-point attempt, a 14-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“I trust my eyes when I saw [Central] couldn’t match up with us up front,” said St. Pierre. “We were stronger, and bigger, and tougher.
“We called the same play probably 30 times today and they didn’t really have an answer. That’s what the game needed and that’s what we gave it.”
Division 3 North
Tewksbury 29, Winchester 28 — For the second straight week, a late fourth-quarter lead had slipped away. And once again, the season, and a bid for a third straight D3 North title depended on stopping a 2-point conversion.
As Winchester senior QB Tommy Degnan (4 touchdowns) received the shotgun snap and followed a handful of blockers to the right side, he was met with vengeance by a pile of Redmen defenders who forced him out of bounds just before the pylon.
With less than a minute left, Tewksbury’s denial of the rush locked up the win.
Tewksbury (9-1) will face South champion Duxbury in a state semifinal next weekend.
“Our guys just really know how to grind in that situation and have that sense of urgency that ‘this is it,’ ” said Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward.
“The kids were able to respond when they needed to respond. It is almost like these guys don’t even know any better and they just go out and do it.”
Degnan’s 1-yard keeper, for a 29-28 game, came just minutes after Tewksbury forged ahead on a 1-yard run by junior Kyle Darrigo.
Tewksbury took a 14-13 lead into halftime on a 14-yard pass on fourth down from junior Ryan Rametta to senior Tyler Keough. They also hooked up in the second half.
NEPSAC Mike Silipo Bowl
Deerfield 26, Milton Academy 23 — Deerfield Academy football coach Brian Barbato was well aware of the challenges Milton Academy quarterback Jake Willcox and the offense presented entering Saturday’s Mike Silipo Bowl.
Barbato’s defense responded to the challenge well, sacking Willcox five times and coming up with an interception in a win that served as the first NEPSAC bowl game win for the Big Green under Barbato.
“These guys are so good. They’re well-coached, the kids play hard, we knew it was going to be a huge challenge coming in here,” Barbato said after knocking off the previously-unbeaten Mustangs (8-1) in Milton. “Willcox is such an accurate passer. If you don’t get him off his mark, he’s going to pick you apart all day. They have so many different threats.”
Caleb Newman and Sam Carlson registered two sacks each, while Marcus Romboli had another and Porter Hollen came up with a fourth quarter pick which all but sealed the deal for Deerfield (8-2), which held a 26-17 lead at the time.
Milton managed one final touchdown as time expired, when Willcox connected with Michigan-commit Kalel Mullings for a 20-yard score.
“We don’t quit,” Mullings said. “We’re always fighting to the end. We fought together for four years. The game’s not over ’til the clock hits zero.”
Mullings also had a 2-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter in the final game of his prep school career.
Griffin Schutz, who’s committed to Virginia for lacrosse, scored all four of Deerfield’s touchdowns – three rushing before one receiving on a third-and-4 from the Milton 23-yard line in the fourth quarter, during which quarterback Cortland Dicks was nearly sacked before finding Schutz in the flat to make it a two-score game.
“The prettiest ugly play, or the ugly prettiest play you’ll ever see,” Barbato said.
Karl Capen reported from Tewksbury, Jake Levin from Milton.