By Jean DePlacido Correspondent
The Salem News
---- — DANVERS — Jon Thomas, Alex Moore and their St. John’s Prep football teammates really, really like that home cookin’.
Returning home to Cronin Field for the first time in four weeks, the Eagles celebrated with some offensive fireworks. Before a large Homecoming crowd, they blew out visiting St. John’s of Shrewsbury, 49-8, as Thomas and Moore scored three touchdowns each.
After several weeks of matching up against teams that run power football, the Prep (5-1) feasted defensively against the Pioneers’ spread offense. When they had the football, the Eagles also flourished, with Thomas running for 235 yards on just 17 carries while Moore got his team off and running with two first quarter scores.
He intercepted an Andrew Smiley pass and five plays later blasted into the end zone from three yards out. Stephen Camarro, who was a perfect 7 for 7 on point after attempts, made it 7-0.
Moore hauled in a Sharrio pass and raced 54 yards for his second touchdown with 4:30 still left in the opening quarter. Conor Powers delivered a solid hit on Shadrach Abrokwah on ensuing kickoff return, causing him to fumble, and the Eagles recovered. They drove to the Pioneers’ 5-yard line before fumbling, but scored again on their next possession with Thomas crashing in from five yards out.
Thomas, who had 235 yards rushing on 17 carries, struck again after Sean Smerczynski recovered a fumble. This time, the hard-charging back went 68 yards, changing directions from the middle of the field to the outside, and by halftime the Eagles were in total command, 35-0, after Moore outran everybody for a 44-yard score. That play came right after Anthony Bongiorno’s 25-yard catch.
“Offensively, we can be explosive at times,” said Prep coach Jim O’Leary after his team improved to 5-1 and now has a bye week. “I was disappointed early when they blocked our punt, but we got the ball right back with the interception.
“Defensively, we match up well against spread teams. The last couple of weeks, we’ve been going against power teams. Our defense is very quick. It was bend, don’t break, because you can’t give up the home run. We are able to get people to the ball very quickly.”
The Pioneers, who suffered their first loss a week ago to Shrewsbury High School, run a no-huddle, up-tempo offense and look to pass on almost every down. Smiley had success with the screen pass and was 30-47 for 254 yards, including a late TD pass to John Giacoppe for the lone score, but was also intercepted three times by Moore, Gerald Kahari and Lucas Bavaro.
“We’ve got a great defense this year,” said Bavaro, one of four Prep captains. He intercepted a Smiley pass on the first play of the second half and returned in 32 yards to the end zone. “We all know our positions, and the chemistry on this team is unreal. We communicate, and we’re all friends off the field.”
Tucker Mathers hit the quarterback, who fumbled to end a scoring threat by the Pioneers midway through the third quarter. The Eagles then went 86 yards with Thomas capping it off with a six-yard TD for the final score.
Members of the Catholic Conference champion Class of 1970 went out for the coin toss as honorable captains along with Jim Daly (1971) and Pete Frates (2003), who have both been diagnosed with ALS. The Prep players wore red wristbands to support the fight against the disease, and St. John’s raised $5,000 with a dress down day last Friday for the cause.