Coppola carries SJP to playoff berth

WESTWOOD, Mass. -- St. John’s Prep sophomore Alex Moore intercepted a Chris Calvanese pass on fourth and 23 with under two minutes left in the game to seal the upset over No. 5 Xaverian, 21-12, and capture the Catholic Conference title for Prep.

“Defense played well,” said Prep coach Jim O’Leary. “We bent a little bit, but my young secondary made some big plays.”

Having given up a safety and a field goal in the second quarter, the Eagles were up 14-5 with 6:37 left in the third quarter after Tyler Coppola (26 carries, 215 yards) took a 28-yard jaunt for his second score of the day.

“You got a horse, you ride him,” added O’Leary. "We knew we had to run the ball.”

Xaverian then put together their first, and only, sustained drive of the game, a 6:10, sixty yard journey, capped off by a nine yard pass from Calvanese to senior Joe Colton with 19 seconds left in the third. The extra point kick by Jules Murphy made the game 14-12.

On the ensuing kickoff, the ball landed and St. John’s could have recovered the ball, but Chris Ryan slipped when he tried to fall on it and Xaverian’s Chris Tamasi recovered the ball at the St. John’s Prep 30.

After a run for a three yard loss and two failed passes, Murphy set up for a 47 yard field goal, having already made a 30-yarder in the second quarter. After the kick fell right and short, the St. John’s Prep sideline erupted and the Eagles offense went back to work.

Coppola took eight runs for 58 yard on the drive, but Tommy Gaudet (six carries, 81 yards, touchdown) took a special route into the end zone on his 3-yard run.

“We ran the same play we had just used to run up the field with Tyler, except Coach O’Leary told me to pull the ball and there was no one in front of me,” said Gaudet of his naked bootleg to the left side, which most of his teammates didn’t know about. “Everyone kept their blocks, that made the fake, and that was the touchdown.

“That’s our equivalent of a pass play,” joked O’Leary.

After Connor Shaw’s extra point made the game 21-12, Xaverian took the ball from their 37 looking to score and possibly get the ball back with 2:37 left in the game.

Xaverian’s Joe Colton caught a swing pass on the left side of the field eight yards behind the line of scrimmage on first down, but sophomore Mike Brennan put his shoulder into Colton just after the ball arrived, sending him to the ground and the St. John’s stands out of their seats.

On the next play, Calvanese completed a pass down field for the first, but he ran past the line of scrimmage, wherein they incurred a 5-yard penalty, lost a down, making it 3rd and 23.

“We had a pretty good pass rush,” said O’Leary. “We caught a break with him throwing over the line … that would have changed the game considerably.”

After the failed pass on third down, Calvanese tossed up a prayer on fourth down but Moore (7 tackles, interception) was on the prowl and came down with the interception.

“That’s a tough situation for a high school quarterback,” added O’Leary. “We’re just back there looking to pick the ball. That’s what we do… make picks when we need to make picks."


SJP 0 7 7 7 --- 21

XAV 0 5 7 0 --- 12

Second Quarter

SJ - Tyler Coppola 29 run (Connor Shaw kick)

X – Safety

X - Jules Murphy 29 field goal

Third Quarter

SJ - Tyler Coppola 28 run (Shaw kick)

X - Joe Colton 9 pass from Chris Calvanese (Murphy kick)

Fourth Quarter

SJ - Tommy Gaudet 3 run (Shaw kick)