SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 5, 2013

Defending D1 champ St. John's looking to reload

By Jean DePlacido
Correspondent

---- — The Eagles are coming off a fantastic season that ended with a Super Bowl win, but several key players from that team will be missed. Alex Moore, the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year, and Lucas Bavaro are now playing at Penn and Dartmouth respectively while senior middle linebacker Sean Smerczynski transferred to Pingree. In all, 29 seniors graduated, leaving some big shoes to fill.

There are several positives starting with the return of one of the best running backs in New England, senior Johnathan Thomas, who has committed to Maryland. Last year the Peabody resident led the team with 1,812 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was also the second leading receiver, catching 10 passes for 163 yards and three TD’s.

The other big plus for the Eagles is the offensive line where everybody is back except center James Fagan. Senior Dom Hooven, junior Jacob Palmer, senior Kent Blaeser, and senior Sean Hoey are all seasoned veterans who opened up big holes last season. Palmer is starting for the second straight year while all the others have two year’s varsity experience under their belts. Senior Sean Lovett has taken over at center.

After quarterbacking the team for two years Jack Sharrio graduated, leaving that position up for grabs. Sharrio, who threw for 989 yards and a dozen touchdowns, will be missed. Michael Geaslen, who backed up Sharrio a year ago has earned the starting job while junior A. J. Carrigan is the backup. Three sophomores and a freshman will also be brought along by assistant coach Brian St. Pierre, a former St. John’s Prep star and NFL player.

“The offense is ahead of the defense at this point,” said veteran head coach Jim O’Leary, who was pleased with the team’s pre-season camp in Maine where they took 103 players (leaving 80 freshmen at home). “We’re going to throw a little more this season to get people out of the box so they don’t just key on Thomas. The wide receiving core has been the biggest surprise.

Senior Logan Mahoney, who is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, has looked very impressive along with junior Michael Calascibetta. Senior Kyle MacGilvray (also the punter) and Owen Rockett are the slot receivers while juniors Pete Daly and Jake Burt are tight ends.

Joining Thomas in the backfield are junior Cody Harwood, junior Brandon Kahari, and sophomore transfer Dylan Preston, a slashing back like former Prep great Steve Van Note. Senior Greg Kobelski returns at fullback.

Defensively, graduation took a big toll, and the Eagles will rely on several underclassmen. Many spots are wide open. Thomas will see some action at outside linebacker along with senior Domenik Pizzano. Senior Michael Fawehinmi returns at cornerback while seniors Sam Gomez and Connor Daly are the defensive tackles. Senior Nick Maraffa and sophomore Sean Fallon are the inside linebackers with Sam Sutera at defensive end.

“We’re not totally inexperienced on defense, but we do have some big shoes to fill,” said O’Leary. “We are treating Smerczynski like a graduate. It’s unfortunate, and I wish him well, but we have to move on. Our offense is solid, but we’ll take some lumps defensively in order to get better. The bottom line is we’ll do what we have to do to win football games, and believe in the system."