WESTWOOD — St. John’s Prep is moving on to the playoffs, thanks to a stifling defense and a big reception by Alex Moore. Everything was on the line as so often happens when Catholic Conference powerhouses St. John’s Prep and Xaverian meet in the traditional Thanksgiving battle to determine not only the league champ which one goes on and which goes home.
The Eagles got the job done with a 9-0 shutout victory, but it wasn’t pretty. Turnovers ruled the day with each team throwing a pair of interceptions, and turning the ball over on fumbles three times apiece.
The 9-1 Eagles will face 10-1 Andover, the Merrimack Valley Conference champion, in the D-1 playoffs on Tuesday (Time and site TBA).
The Eagles had lots of scoring opportunities in the first half, driving deep into Hawk territory time and again only to come up empty. They took the lead on a safety in the opening quarter. Johnathan Thomas, who was the workhorse with 119 hard fought yards on 24 carries, gained 44 yards on the first play of the game to set the Eagles up at the Hawks 27-yard line, but the drive stalled, and Xaverian took over at its own 8.
The Prep’s smothering defense kept them bottled up, forcing a punt from the end zone, and as he hurried to get the ball away Kyle Darrow’s knee touched down for a safety. That 2-0 lead turned out to be all the Eagles would need.
St. John’s got the ball back after the safety, and Thomas returned it 51-yards to set them up again. The Eagles threatened but couldn’t punch it in. On their next drive the Eagles had a first-and-goal at the Hawks 6-yard line, but once again came up empty when 6-foot-3, 285 pound Michigan bound Maurice Hurst Jr. recovered a fumble on the snap. Hurst and Shayne Kaminski clogged up the middle for the Hawks making it difficult for Thomas and Moore to run inside.