By Jean DePlacido Correspondent
The Salem News
---- — DANVERS – For what seems like the 100th time, it’ll all come down to Thanksgiving Day for the St. John’s Prep football team.
After knocking off Catholic Conference rival B.C. High Saturday afternoon, 21-16, on Senior Day at Cronin Field, the Eagles will face their long-time rivals from Xaverian on the holiday to determine which squad wins the league title and moves on to the state playoffs. Both teams will enter the final game of the regular season with 3-0 league records.
Junior Johnathan Thomas was the difference maker for St. John’s Prep Saturday, scoring two touchdowns and gaining 174 yards on 26 carries. He also caught two Jack Sharrio passes to put him over 200 yards of total offense.
“We knew B.C. High was going to be very tough,” said Prep head coach Jim O’Leary, whose team is now 9-1 overall. “They are healthy now after having a bunch of injuries, and there’s a reason why they were (once) ranked No. 2 in the state. Their backs were to the wall, but they were still in the hunt for the league championship with a win.
“Our slow start was frustrating, but a lot of it wasn’t us as much as how they played. Over the years our games with B.C. High (3-6 overall, 1-2 in league play) have always been close, coming down to a field goal or a missed tackle in the last seconds. We knew this was not going to be (easy); it took determination, and the boys were able to put it together.”
St. John’s got off to a slow start and trailed 3-0 when Jackson Bockhurst booted a 35-yard field goal on the visitors’ first possession. After a big defensive stop on fourth down in which Corey Jean-Jacques tackled B.C. High quarterback Dan Collins for no gain at the Prep 29-yard line, the hosts took over.
From there, the Eagles drove 71 yards on six plays with Thomas getting the nod every time. He busted outside for a 14-yard touchdown and Stephen Carmarro booted the first of three PAT’s for a 7-3 lead.
St. John’s Prep increased the lead to 14-3 after Thomas crashed into the end zone from two yards out with 38 seconds remaining in the half.
“I had to keep my legs moving and not let up,” said Thomas. “Their linebackers were great, especially Luke (captain Luke Catarius). He was like hitting a wall. This one wasn’t easy, but we came together to get it done.”
One of those mistakes, an illegal shift call, wiped out a 34-yard run into the end zone by Thomas in the early going.
The visitors made things interesting with two fourth quarter touchdowns. Collins fired a 47-yard strike to Tim Johnson with 6:42 left in the game, but the two-point pass attempt was broken up.
“I can’t say enough about the job Collins did,” said B.C. High coach Joe Gaff. “We made Thomas work for every yard he got, but give credit to the Prep. They played well and had some big plays to beat us. Both defenses were outstanding; I think these two teams would rather play defense.”
St. John’s answered with what proved to be the winning score, going 74 yards with a ball control drive that ate up the clock. One play after Thomas caught a 16-yard pass, Moore barreled in from four yards out to make it a two-possession game.
Collins (11 for 20, 184 yards) put his team on the board with two seconds left when he connected with Skelly Enabulele for a 19-yard TD. He also scrambled for 53 yards when he couldn’t find an open receiver, but was sacked three times.
St. John’s Prep’s Chris Newton tackled Collins in the backfield twice for big losses, and Tucker Mathers and defensive end Anthony Bongiorno combined for the other. Bongiorno also recovered a fumble while Lucas Bavaro and Sean Smerczynski were all over the field making tackles for the Eagles.