"We thought we were the best and we wanted to play the best," reasoned Zardas.
Beyond the stripes
O'Leary's influence reaches far outside the X's and the O's, and even far outside his own Danvers campus. He's always been involved in the state's Football Coaches Association and, more recently, in the MIAA's Football Committee. He's one of the state's most influential voices in terms of where Bay State football should go and how it can grow.
"Football is 12 months a year for him," said Yanchus. "He's very connected and always involved in the committees. It's not just coaching at St. John's but running combines, attending meetings and working on different playoff schemes."
The long-time involvement has also helped the Prep head coach build a network of contacts in college football. The Eagles' program is always high on recruiting lists because they're accommodating and O'Leary tells it like it is.
"From Day 1 the administration has supported that. They've given me time to do that and they allow (college) coaches on campus," O'Leary said. "I'm always honest with both our kids and the coaches, and that goes a long way. We don't inflate heights or 40-yard dash times.
"Coaches know what they're getting from us, for that most part they're good kids who can play and are going to graduate."
The Prep program has sent players all over the country, from Bowl Championship Series conferences to the Ivy League. They've placed plenty of players at lower levels with just as much academic rigor, a testament to work done by the entire staff that includes Michael Barbati, Peter Argeros, Dave McHenry, Brian Flatley, John Westfield and others.