DANVERS, Mass. – The raucous environment surrounding Cronin Stadium in the lead up to Homecoming Day at St. John’s Prep did little to translate to the Eagles’ start on the field. In Saturday’s battle with BC High, No. 3 Prep came out a little flat, allowing its Catholic Conference rival to claim an early lead. BC High also took a 14-10 lead to the half as well.
The second half was a different matter, as Prep scored 23 unanswered points during the final two quarters to capture a 33-14 win.
“We had a little bit of a slow start, but we came out flying in the second half,” Prep senior quarterback Ollie Eberth said. “Our offense started clicking. We changed up a few blocking assignments and our receivers came up big making plays. Cody Harwood and [Dillon] Preston, you can’t say much more about them. They’re bouncing off tackles left and right.”
The host Eagles (6-1, 3-0 Catholic Conf.) displayed a balanced offense, with Ebert throwing for 128 yards and three touchdowns on 11 of 16 passing, while senior running back Cody Harwood used 21 carries to run for 129 yards.
Prep’s defense was a major factor in building the second-half lead. It tallied eight points, forcing a safety before Owen Rockett’s 84-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“Our defense really stood up in the second half,” Prep head coach Brian St. Pierre said. “They played a great game. There were a couple turns of momentum, that’s when we kind of started to take over the game.”
BC High (3-3, 1-1) drew first blood on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Sean Holleran (6 of 8, 87 yards) to Nick Gill (4 catches, 74 yards). It was the first of two first-half scoring plays for the duo, which also lifted BC High to a 14-10 lead at the half.
Prep tied the game, 7-7, on Eberth’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Jake Burt, before a Justin Foley 33-yard field goal with 27 seconds remaining in the second quarter. BC High sophomore Connor Cady returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards to give his team on last crack at the end zone before the half.
On the next play, Holleran hit Gill on a fade for an 11-yard touchdown in the final seconds.
That’s when St. Pierre reminded his team of what was ahead of them in the second half.
“He made a point to us that we were playing flat, and that’s not the way that we play the game,” Harwood said. “He just made it a point that we had to leave everything on the field for the next 24 minutes.”
Prep entered the third quarter reinvigorated, as Eberth led a 7-play, 75-yard drive to start the half, capped by 36-yard throw to James DiBenedetto.
Eberth had his third scoring pass of the game on Prep’s next possession, hitting Rockett on a 4-yard play on the first play of the fourth quarter.
On BC High’s ensuing possession, backed up in its own end at the 4-yard line, Prep defensive lineman Hunter Brown made a tackle in the end zone for a safety and a 26-14 lead.
Miscues would again haunt BC High when Rockett turned in his second touchdown of the game, turning an interception into an 84-yard return for a touchdown.
“When you get a couple of turnovers like that, that really changes the complexion of the game,” St. Pierre said.
Next man up: Rockett has been a steady contributor to Prep’s aerial attack throughout the season. But even as the two-way starter was hobbled while being tackled on a jet sweep in the first quarter, Eberth still have plenty of weapons at his command.
“It was great, Owen goes down for a series or two and we don’t even blink,” Eberth said. James [DiBenedetto], we have great trust in. He’s got great size and great speed. And I throw it up, he pulls a little Megatron and brings it down. And Michael Calascibetta was making plays. The depth is great. When one guy goes down, we have a substitute right there.”
Of course, Eberth also has a security blanket of sorts in Jake Burt. Despite facing consistent double-teams and bracketed coverage throughout the year, the Boston College-bound tight end has remained undaunted.
“He’s a mismatch every week and you have to account for that,” St. Pierre said. “They did a great job defensively, but we just kept plugging away. We just kept doing our stuff and we believe in our system and our guys.”
Rockett returned to the game after a couple of missed series, and he left his imprint with both an offensive and a defensive touchdown. It’s something the Eagles have come to rely on.
Just as Harwood has contributed in the ground game as well. The stout running back is a burden to tackle and has made it habit of turning in 100-yard rushing performances this year.
“Everybody knows what kind of guy he is,” St. Pierre said. “Owen [Rockett] and Jake [Burt] get a lot of the headlines and [Eberth] get a lot of the headlines – and rightfully so – but I’ll take Cody on my team any day. He knows that. He’s so tough. He plays the game the right way.”