SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

November 27, 2012

Powerful defense has been backbone for SJP

(Continued)

“We all know where each other is going to be. We communicate well and that’s important,” said Bongiorno, a 6-foot-4, 233-pound powerhouse from Marblehead. “We have pride across our whole defense, and we pride ourselves on physical play.”

The chemistry between the end-tackle pairings of Bongiorno/Jean-Jacuqes and Newton/Mathers drives the Prep. Both pairs know how to play off their counterparts’ stunts to both stuff the run and pressure the quarterback.

The Eagles held Xaverian to 11 rushing yards on Thanksgiving morning, and Newton, a senior, had arguably his best game of the year.

“Newt’s been a beast. He’s put the team on his back by doing all the grunt work that goes unnoticed, all the fighting in the trenches,” said Mathers, a Boxford native who plans to play both football and lacrosse at Tufts.

“We know each other backwards and forwards. If Chris does a move, I know what to do, and if I’m doing a dodge or something, I know Chris is there in the middle to clean things up.”

Andover (10-1) loves the throw the ball, and QB C.J. Scarpa has 32 touchdown passes on the season against just five interceptions. Contrast that with the St. John’s Prep defense, which has 12 picks of its own and has allowed just five TD passes all year.

The Eagles can rely on supreme athletes like Michael Fawehinmi and Gerald Kahari — “He made an interception against Malden Catholic so athletic I can’t even describe it,” Mathers recalled — in coverage, as well as the dynamic and versatile Alex Moore.

The Prep yields an average of 112 yards per game in the air. They had their toughest game against the pass when St. John’s Shrewsbury threw for 254 yards, but the Eagles had three picks that day and won 49-8.

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