“This game was for them (the seniors). They were the ones that motivated everybody in the weight room and in the offseason. We follow their examples and they showed great examples,” said Thomas, who finished with 1,812 yards and the area rushing title.
St. John’s is one big family and never forgets players from past years, so it wasn’t at all surprising to see coach O’Leary wearing a baseball cap with a Rice 35 patch. That’s in memory of former football player Jim Rice, who wore number 35 (O’Leary’s old number). The Peabody firefighter lost his life in the line of duty a couple of days before Christmas last year. Earlier this season, the entire football team lined up for the memorial dedication outside the Eagles baseball and lacrosse fields. Rice will always be remembered, and in a moving moment, senior defensive end Tucker Mathers took off his No. 35 game shirt and presented it to Rice’s family.
For the senior class, the Super Bowl win meant even more because a certain alumni was on the sideline Saturday. During the post-game celebration, Sharrio, Moore, Kahari and Mathers made their way over to celebrate and take a photo with Jared Coppola, who has been a source of inspiration for the team since breaking the fifth vertebrae in his neck in a scrimmage in 2009.
Mathers and company, who were freshmen when Coppola was injured, can recall Thanksgiving in 2010 when Coppola came out for the coin toss before the game against Xaverian. That year, the Eagles reached the Super Bowl before falling to Everett. This year, the team wasn’t going to be denied.
“It’s unbelievable, he is such a big figure for us and a true, tremendous leader in everything he does,” Mathers said. “I look up to that kid every day. He’s the most relentless kid I have ever met in my life.”