DANVERS — Life after Johnny Thomas got off to a good start for St. John’s Prep Saturday afternoon.
Junior running back Cody Harwood and sophomore Dillon Preston each scored two touchdowns as the Eagles crushed Malden Catholic, 55-8, at Cronin Stadium in their Catholic Conference opener.
Harwood rushed for 151 yards on seven carries in his first start. He took over at running back a week ago and scored a touchdown against Everett game after Thomas, arguably the state’s top player, tore his ACL. Preston, meanwhile, had seen limited action prior to Saturday.
The Eagles wasted little time getting on the board when speedster Owen Rockett returned a Lancer punt 75 yards for a score with just over three minutes gone. On the Prep’s next possession, Harwood broke loose for a 41-yard touchdown run, which was set up by another nice punt return by Rockett.
“Owen is dangerous every time he touches the ball,” said Prep head coach Jim O’Leary, his team 3-2 overall. “He’s very talented, (and) Harwood and Preston are a nice combination, especially since Dillon is a little different-style back.
“We had been heavily relying on Johnny, but when he’s not here we have to continue to perform well. We need wins to make the playoffs.The young guys picked up the ball and ran with it. I knew they could do it, so it wasn’t a big surprise.
O’Leary was also pleased with the play of his offensive line throughout the contest. “They’re veterans and need to take charge, especially now,” he said.
Riddled with injuries, Malden Catholic (0-5) was forced to start freshman Colin Sullivan at quarterback. The Lancers had trouble moving the ball while the hosts scored on five of six possessions in the first half.
A. J. Carrigan alternated at quarterback for St. John’s with senior Mike Geaslen early on. After Geaslen threw a 7-yard touchdown strike to Jake Burt to give St. John’s 21-0 lead early in the second quarter, Carrigan replaced him and led the Eagles downfield for another score as Harwood ran it in from 25 yards out.