DANVERS — Homecoming Day at St. John's Prep got off to a great start with the Eagles taking an early lead over unbeaten St. John's of Shrewsbury, but failure to capitalize on scoring chances hurt the home team in a 24-13 loss before a large crowd Saturday at Cronin Stadium.
At the half the Prep clung to a 13-12 lead after University of California bound wide receiver/kicker Richard Rodgers made a 28-yard field goal with four seconds left before intermission. The visitors from Shrewsbury, who have been averaging 45 points per game, blanked the Eagles the rest of the way while building up a cushion.
"We lost the game in the first half, which may sound strange because we were ahead," said Prep coach Jim O'Leary, his team dropping to 3-3 with the loss. "When you have a first-and-goal at the 18, you have to make the best of those opportunities. Bang a couple of those in, and it's a 28-6 game. We needed to play a game where we didn't turn the ball over (three) and didn't have costly penalties."
O'Leary was referring to his team's first quarter drive to the Pioneer 18-yard line that stalled on fourth down when quarterback Tommy Gaudet was sacked. The visitors marched 74 yards in six plays, capped by a Dan Light 49-yard strike to Rodgers, who caught the ball at the Prep-15 and ran up the left sideline. Light completed 11 of 19 pass attempts for 183 yards, and his favorite target was Rodgers (7-93 yards). Alex Moore blocked the kick by Rodgers, and St. John's answered with an impressive 69-yard, eight play drive to take the lead.
Once again senior tailback Tyler Coppola was the big weapon. Coming off a monster five touchdown game, he gained 181 yards on 25 carries and is now only 95 yards shy of joining the 1,000 yards rushing club, scored both touchdowns for his team. His first trip to the end zone came on an 18-yard run on an inside trap play, and Connor Shaw booted the extra point to give the Eagles a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter.