FOXBOROUGH — Saturday’s Division 1 Super Bowl rematch between Catholic Memorial and St. John’s Prep could be described as tumultuous, bizarre, or even sloppy, but for the now two-time state champion Eagles, all that matters is the final score.
Prep forced four first-half turnovers and held on for a 21-14 victory on a chilly night at Gillette Stadium to clinch consecutive state titles for the first time in program history.
“It was a wild game,” said Prep coach Brian St. Pierre. “These guys just made history. They’re the only team in St. John’s Prep history to win back-to-back [titles]. There’s a short list of schools in the state that have done that, and they just etched their names.”
At the center of the chaos was Eagles senior captain Matt Duchemin.
The 6-foot, 185-pound wide receiver and defensive back had an early miscue, stripped at the CM 14-yard line immediately after making a 37-yard reception on Prep’s first drive. But his teammates quickly picked him up: Senior Michael Fionda forced a fumble, and sophomore James Guy (24 carries, 90 yards) rushed for a 14-yard touchdown to open the scoring.
Duchemin (5 receptions, 119 yards) atoned with a pair of highlight catches, getting the Eagles to the 3-yard line to set up Guy’s second rushing touchdown. Then, freshman Joenel Aguero forced another fumble, and Duchemin provided an interception to preserve Prep’s 14-0 lead heading into halftime.
“We didn’t come to play,” said CM coach John DiBiaso. “We had [four] turnovers in the first half and you can’t win a game like that.”
While Duchemin muffed a punt to give CM (11-1) great field position and set up a 1-yard touchdown run from Owen McGowan, he made up for it once again with a 32-yard touchdown reception to make it 21-7 with 5:05 remaining.
Guy fumbled deep in Prep territory to set up a 5-yard touchdown pass from Barrett Pratt to Zach Mitchell with 1:52 remaining, but CM would get no closer.
“Matt [Duchemin] had a wild night,” said St. Pierre. “He had his hands on balls all night, good, bad, everything.”
Facing an undefeated conference rival that won a 34-32 shootout at Prep during the regular season, the Eagles (11-1) controlled the line of scrimmage and adjusted their game plan on the back end to stymie the Knights’ high-powered offense.
Duchemin anchored the secondary with help from Aguero and sophomore Matt Mitchell, both of whom were recently inserted into the starting lineup.
But with the game hanging in the balance, it was the Eagles most experienced player who made the biggest plays.
Senior quarterback Matt Crowley escaped pressure to find Jackson Delaney for a huge 16-yard pickup on third down, just four plays before he tossed his touchdown strike to Duchemin.
“[Crowley’s] a winner,” St. Pierre said. “That’s a winning play. That’s a senior captain, three-year starter, two-time champion making a play to help his team. That’s Matt’s legacy.”
For Crowley, the credit belongs to St. Pierre and his staff for turning a team that returned just seven starters — and just three on offense — into champions.
“He builds this culture that’s unmatched,” said Crowley. “All the credit goes to coach. We came back with barely any returning starters and he made us into a team that won the state [title].”
St. John’s Prep 21, Catholic Memorial 14
at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
St. John’s Prep (11-1)14 0 0 7 — 21
Catholic Memorial (11-1) 0 0 7 7 — 14
SJP — James Guy 14 run (Liam Fabbri kick)
SJP — James Guy 3 run (Liam Fabbri kick)
CM — Owen McGowan 1 run (Matt Sokol kick)
SJP — Matt Duchemin 32 pass from Matt Crowley (Liam Fabbri kick)
CM — Zach Mitchell 5 pass from Barrett Pratt (Matt Sokol kick)
RUSHING — CM, Darrius LeClair 14-71, Shiloh White 7-20, Owen McGowan 6-4, Jamall Griffin 1-2, Zach Mitchell 1-(-1); SJP, James Guy 24-90, Matt Crowley 8-7
PASSING — CM, Barrett Pratt 9-26-2-92, Jack Lawn 0-1-0; SJP, Matt Crowley 7-12-145
RECEIVING — CM, Owen McGowan 4-53, Zach Mitchell 4-31, Daniel Lopes 1-8; SJP, Matt Duchemin 5-119, Jackson Delaney 1-15, Joenel Aguero 1-11
Nate Weitzer can be reached at email@example.com.