By Jean DePlacido
---- — DANVERS — Two minutes and 11 seconds was all that stood between the St. John’s Prep football team and one of Thanksgiving Day’s biggest upsets.
The Eagles had taken a two-point lead at that juncture and were on the verge of upsetting their Catholic Conference rival, Super Bowl-bound Xaverian. But the visiting Hawks drove 66 yards downfield on the ensuing possession and punched in the game-winning touchdown to prevail, 28-22, at Cronin Stadium.
When Prep quarterback Michael Geaslen found sophomore Jack Lambert with a 5-yard touchdown pass with 2:11 to play, it gave the Eagles (6-5) a 22-20 lead. Although the extra point was blocked, a victory would have given the Prep a share of the Catholic Conference with Xaverian.
But Hawks QB Jake Farrell had other plans. He completed his team’s final drive with a 23-yard scoring strike to A.J. King, who caught it along the left sideline and dove into the end zone. Farrell hit Nick Colantuoni with a 2-point conversion pass to account for the game’s final points.
With just 24 seconds remaining, St. John’s reached the Hawks’ 24-yard line after Logan Mahoney grabbed a 13-yard pass from Geaslen. But Geaslen — who broke Brian St. Pierre’s school record for passing yards in a season (1,216) yesterday, was unable to find a receiver on the game’s final play.
St. John’s had 24 seconds remaining on the clock, and moved the ball to the Xaverian 24 after Logan Mahoney caught a 13-yard pass from Geaslen. But on the final play of the game Geaslen was unable to find an open receiver.
““I can’t believe how physical this game was; not dirty but hard hitting, hard fought. They were certainly not thinking ahead to the Super Bowl, it was all about beating us,” St. John’s Prep head coach Jim O’Leary said about Xaverian.
“It’s always been this kind of game, and that’s a testament to our coaching staff and their coaching staff. We scout each other every game and know all there is to know about the other team. It comes down to turnovers, breaks and making plays.”
Cody Harwood had a big game rushing the football for St. John’s with 205 yards and a touchdown while Lambert rushed for 48 yards.
It was a costly victory for Xaverian, which lost five players to injury in the first half. Star running back Shayne Kaminski (who had 100 yards on 5 carries including an 85-yard TD run on the second play from scrimmage) and fullback Kenny Kern are now big question marks for Xaverian heading into its Dec. 7 Division 1 Super Bowl date with Central Catholic.
“Right now it looks doubtful, but that’s football,” said Xaverian coach Charlie Stevenson. “I had no thought about not going with our best players (against St. John’s); they all wanted to play. I don’t understand why people think Thanksgiving isn’t important any longer because we’ve got a state championship game coming up.”
St. John’s was able to move the ball on the ground and in the air. In the first quarter they drove to the Xaverian goal line before fumbling. The ball was batted around and finally kicked forward by the Hawks before going out of bounds, but it was ruled it had crossed the end zone and St. John’s got on the board with a safety.
On the ensuing kickoff the Eagles’ Michael Fawehinmi returned it 85 yards right down the middle of the field for a score, putting his team ahead 9-6. The hosts took a 16-6 lead early in the second quarter when Harwood broke loose for a 46-yard scamper.
Xaverian made the most of an interception, closing the gap to 16-13 on a Farrell to Damion Wood 60-yard pass. “That was a 14-point turnaround,” said O’Leary. “We were going in for a score when the ball was tipped up, and they came back to score.
Xaverian went ahead with a long touchdown drive in the third quarter, 20-16, but once again St. John’s answered to take the lead. Harwood carried the ball four times for 50 yards to set up the scoring pass to Lambert.
Xaverian 28, St. John’s Prep 22
at Cronin Stadium, Danvers
Xaverian (10-1) 6 7 7 8 — 28
St. John’s Prep (6-5) 9 7 0 6 — 22
X-Shayne Kaminski 85 run (kick failed)
SJP-Safety, Xaverian kicked ball in own end zone
SJP-Michael Fawehinmi 85 kickoff return (Josh Hilty kick)
SJP-Cody Harwood 46 run (Hilty kick)
X-Damion Wood 60 pass from Jake Farrell (Joe Gaziano kick)
X-Billy Leroux 6 run (Gaziano kick)
SJP-Jack Lambert 5 pass from Michael Geaslen (kick blocked)
X-A.J. King 23 pass from Farrell (Nick Colantuoni pass from Farrell)
RUSHING: Xaverian — Shayne Kaminski 5-100, Billy Leroux 7-31, Jake Farrell 4-29, D’Aundre Holmes 3-27, John Dean 2-20, Kenny Kern 3-5, Coby Tippett 1-5; St. John’s Prep — Cody Harwood 24-205, Jack Lambert 10-48, Owen Rockett 2-6, Michael Geaslen 2-(-2).
PASSING: Xaverian — Farrell 10-15-129-2-0; St. John’s Prep — Geaslen 10-17-129-1-1.
RECEIVING: Xaverian — A.J. King 6-81, Joe Gaziano 1-25, Holmes 1-17, Tippett 2-6; St. John’s Prep — Rockett 5-63, Jake Burt 3-51, Logan Mahoney 1-14, Mike Calascibetta 1-1.