SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 16, 2013

Harwood helps Prep power past Methuen

By Hector Longo
Staff writer

---- — METHUEN — A healthier, confident St. John’s Prep football team headed into unknown territory last night and got the job done on all fronts.

The Prep, behind a 28-carry, 187-yard night from junior Cody Harwood, took care of Methuen High, 41-21, at Nicholson Stadium.

More importantly, the Eagles avoided injuries and gathered some serious momentum as they head to Thanksgiving and a shot at some Catholic Conference title glory against Xaverian.

“We’re a power running football team, that’s what we like to do and we did it well,” said Prep boss Jim O’Leary, who watched his troops open up a 27-0 halftime advantage with Harwood on the ground and a ballhawking defense.

Harwood carried a half-dozen times on a tone-setting 12-play opening TD drive that set the tone for the rest of the half.

Jack Lambert punched it in from the 1 for a 7-0 lead just 5:19 in; from there, it was about the defense and its playmakers.

James DiBenedetto was in the right place at the right time when a stiff shot on Methuen quarterback Austin George-Williams popped the football into the air. The 204-pound junior gobbled up the football and dashed 32 yards for the 14-0 lead.

But if any stretch crippled the host Rangers, it was the final minutes of the second quarter.

The Rangers forced a 4th-and-1 at their own 39-yard line and O’Leary went simple with the bruising Lambert, a 5-foot-10, 210-pounder, off tackle. He broke through the first line of defense and nobody was left, allowing Lambert to rumble 38 more yards to paydirt.

With the Rangers still reeling the Eagles’ Brendan Kahari piled it on, picking off a pass and racing untouched 31 yards for a pick-six, closing the half at 27-0.

Methuen, to its credit, looked to make a game of it with the long pass and actually did, slicing the margin to 27-14. But the Prep got the one stop it needed on defense with Harwood turning the lights out for good with a nifty 45-yard TD scamper.

Lambert ran hard as the perfect complement to the swift Harwood, picking up 55 yards and three TDs on just seven carries. Senior QB Mike Geaslen hit 6 of 9 throws for 81 yards.

“We’re playing for (a) 7-4 (record) and we’re playing for a piece of the league title,” said O’Leary. “That should make for a pretty good Thanksgiving.”