DANVERS — Tommy Gaudet attended St. John's of Peabody, but when he graduated from eighth grade there was no chance that he would move on to Peabody High as a student-athlete.
He didn't dislike the high school or the kids who went there, but for family reasons he was ticketed for St. John's Prep.
"My brothers Gary, 22, and Stephen, 20, both went to St. John's Prep, so from the time I was in fourth grade I kind of knew I'd be coming here," Gaudet said during a break at St. John's Prep football practice yesterday.
Even though there was no last-minute suspense about his high school decision, he still hears about it from his friends who play for Peabody High, who will be gunning for a big upset when these two Division 1 rivals meet in the season opener Saturday at St. John's Prep (1:30 p.m.).
"They're talking a little smack over there, saying they're going to beat us," Gaudet, a junior quarterback, said matter-of-factly. "I played Peabody Pop Warner with those kids, so I know them. That's just a good competitive attitude on their part."
It should be very competitive and emotional Saturday — for both teams. St. John's Prep, which is favored, is coming off two consecutive losing seasons (5-6 and 4-6), which is an alien concept in Eagle Nation.
Meanwhile, Peabody has been burdened by five straight losing seasons and has had an especially rough time against St. John's Prep. In their last five meetings, St. John's has beaten Peabody by an average margin of 32-5.
Both teams are hungry to get off on the right foot. The Peabody Tanners have made strides under third-year coach Scott Wlasuk, and even a narrow victory over St. John's Prep would give his team instant credibility and a tremendous amount of confidence. But with an untested quarterback in Gaudet and a green team overall, St. John's Prep needs it, too.