DANVERS, Mass. -- The St. John’s Prep defense continued their strong play to open the season as they held Central Catholic to just one first down in the first half en route to a 31-7 nonleague victory on Saturday afternoon.
Both teams started slow out of the gate as they tried to establish the run between the tackles. After St. John’s Prep’s (2-0) second possession stalled and Central took over safety Alex Moore would force a fumble and also recover it to set Prep up with the ball at the Central Catholic 18-yard line.
“We wanted to make some plays on defense to get the momentum on our side,” Moore said. “We want to try to get the ball to our offense in a good position and go to work.”
St. John’s Prep quarterback Jack Sharrio would finish off the drive as he found senior wide receiver Gerald Kahari on a 6-yard middle screen to give Prep a 6-0 lead after a failed conversion kick.
Sharrio would strike again later in the half as he found senior tight end Anthony Bongiorno on an 11-yard pass to conclude a 59-yard drive. Sharrio added the two-point conversion pass to running back Jonathan Thomas out of the backfield to give Prep a 14-0 lead.
In the NFL they say that third-down is the “Money Down”. On Saturday afternoon the St. John’s Prep defense struck it rich in the opening half as they held Central Catholic (1-1) to just one first down at the 1:55 mark in the second quarter. Prep was stingy on third and fourth downs all afternoon as they continued to control the line of scrimmage.
“The defense played a great game,” St. John’s Prep head coach Jim O’Leary said after the game. “We have to be a great defensive team and that is what we are basing it around this year,”
Thomas, Prep's junior running back, was the workhorse all afternoon for the Eagles as he ran 25 times for 156 yards, highlighted by a beautiful 46-yard third quarter touchdown run as he broke multiple tackles and showed off his breakaway speed on the way to the end zone.
Central’s lone score occurred on a 59-yard bomb from quarterback Michael Milano to wide receiver Ryan Barry with four seconds remaining in the third quarter. Barry made a nice individual effort to out-leap the Prep defensive backfield and take it the rest of the way for the score.
Senior Lucas Bavaro led the Prep defense with seven tackles including a bone crushing hit mid-way through second quarter. Bavaro also added two receptions for 33 yards on offense from his tight end position.
Sharrio’s Efficiency: St. John’s Prep has pounded the ball between the tackles to start the season but they have also shown glimpses of an efficient passing game due to the steady and solid play of Sharrio.
“He was more of an option quarterback last year and he worked hard in the off-season to get his throwing down.”
Sharrio completed 8 of 12 passes for 135 yards and two touchdown strikes. He now has four passing touchdowns in the first two games and is always a threat to break a run when flushed out of the pocket.
“We have to make teams defend the field,” O’Leary said. “He is making good decisions out there and we have good receivers who are possession guys.”
Everett up next: The next team on St. John’s Prep’s schedule is No. 1 ranked Everett (2-0). The Crimson Tide were in attendance on Saturday to get scout on their upcoming opponent. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in Everett.
“Clearly they are the best team in the state,” O’Leary said.
Everett routed St. John’s Prep 35-0 last season and they come into Saturday’s match-up on the heels of two straight victories over Leominster and Springfield Central.
“We know what is coming up,” Moore said. “It is going to be a tough week against a tough team. We are really looking forward to getting back to work and getting our game plan in to get ready for next week.”
ST. JOHN’S PREP 31, CENTRAL CATHOLIC 7
SJP (2-0) 6 8 7 10 --- 31
CEN (1-1) 0 0 7 0 --- 7
S – Gerald Kahari 6 pass from Jack Sharrio (kick failed)
S – Anthony Bongiorno 11 pass from Sharrio (Thomas pass from Sharrio)
S – Jonathan Thomas 46 run (Stephen Camarro kick)
C – Michael Barry 59 pass from Michael Milano (Thomas Jenoski kick)
S – Sean Smerczynski 1 run (Camarro kick)
S – Cammo 26 field goal