By Jean DePlacido
---- — DANVERS — It’s one-and-done in the Division 1 North football playoffs for St. John’s Prep, a team that has been decimated by injuries and school disciplinary issues.
A blitz-happy Lowell came into Cronin Stadium on Senior Day Saturday and totally dominated the Eagles, 41-0. Senior Keagan Latta led the Red Raiders with three touchdowns, three interceptions and a fumble recovery that he returned 26 yards for one of his scores. By halftime the visitors had a commanding, 34-0 lead and were well on their way to a semifinal date with Everett this weekend.
Latta caught a 26-yard pass from Brian Dolan in the opening quarter, then scored twice more in the second on his fumble recovery and a 46-yard interception return. He was a thorn in Prep quarterback Mike Geaslen’s side all afternoon, picking off a pass at the Lowell-29 yard line and added another INT on a tipped ball that set up the final Lowell score, a 33-yard run by Ngaiiva Mason (3 TDs).
“Everything went wrong early ... and it snowballed,” said Prep (4-4) head coach Jim O’Leary. “They had more speed in the middle than us, and we had a difficult time getting the running game going. We’re a running, play-action team but couldn’t get our guys to the outside like we wanted.
“We were asking the guys up front to do a lot, with four of our five not (the usual starting unit). They worked hard and they will be good players, but right now they’re inexperienced.”
Three of the offensive linemen for St. John’s are missing because of school disciplinary action, but two should be back next week along with junior Jake Palmer, who suffered a concussion two weeks ago. The only offensive lineman who played Saturday that started from the beginning of the season was center Sean Lovett.
“Lowell took chances; they knew we were inexperienced,” said O’Leary. “Those interceptions and fumbles changed the game.”
A key point in the game came early when St. John’s decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 at their 38-yard line. Geaslen (9 for 18, 87 yards passing) kept the ball on a run around left end, but didn’t pick up the first down and Lowell needed just five plays to score and make it 13-0. St. John’s Prep had the ball for only two plays after that before fumbling, and Latta recovered for another score.
“Keagan made a lot of reads. That was quite a performance,” said Lowell coach John Florence, speaking about his sensational wide receiver/linebacker. “We caught some lucky breaks early because our defense caused turnovers and were able to score points. Once we got momentum, it went from there.”
Jake Burt caught four passes for 45 yards for St. John’s Prep, including a leaping grab for 22 yards in the third quarter.