DANVERS — Right from the very beginning the St. John's Prep football team set the tone, scoring on their first four possessions Friday night to go up by 25 points before the initial quarter ended.
When it was all said and done, the Eagles had walked away with a 39-17 victory over visiting Andover.
The win punched the Prep's ticket to the Division 1 North finals behind quarterback Matt Crowley, who threw for three touchdowns and ran for another.
"That was a great way to start," said Prep coach Brian St. Pierre. "We've gotten off to a quick start in a lot of games, and we're better when we do that. We can run the hurry up offense and it puts the defense on its heels."
St. Pierre couldn't have scripted a better beginning than scoring on the second play of the game when Crowley found tight end Anthony Fagan, who raced up the right sideline for a 78-yard TD pass, and Liam Fabbri booted the PAT. The Eagles were off and running and never looked back.
The defense dug deep in forcing a punt on the ensuing possession, and Matt Duchemin returned it 50 yards to the Andover 22-yard line. Two plays later, James Guy made a couple of cuts and outran everybody for a 19-yard touchdown.
Andover decided not to punt on fourth down, and came up a yard short, turning it over at their own 36-yard line. Crowley wasted no time, passing to Jackson Delaney for 28 yards and four plays later blasted into the end zone from a yard out on the keeper, 19-0.
A blocked punt gave the Eagles the ball at the Golden Warriors one yard line, and on the next play Guy ran it in to make it 25-0 with 2:22 remaining in the first.
"We relaxed a little in the middle part of the game," said St. Pierre. "I told the kids Andover is really hot, and has won a bunch in a row. They're too good a team for our guys to think this is going to be a blowout."
The No. 3 seeded Golden Warriors had a 6-2 record and had won the last four games. Freshman quarterback Scott Brown engineered a 70-yard drive to get his team on the board early in the second quarter. A fake punt and pass to Jonathan Davila set up the touchdown. The Eagles answered with a drive to the visitors 20-yard line before it bogged down and led, 25-7 at intermission.
St. John's started the second half with the defense holding Andover to two yards on three downs and forced a punt. They mounted a 71-yard, 10 play drive behind the running of Guy and three Crowley passes. The last was an 8-yard play action touchdown pass to Jackson Delaney, 32-7.
"We settled down and did a better job in the second half," said St. Pierre. "That long drive was what we were looking for. I told Crowley he had a pretty good night with three (TD) passes and a run. We have high expectations for him."
Shamus Florio hit a 26-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for Andover to make it 32-10, but it took the explosive Prep offense just one play to answer after recovering an onside kick. A Crowley to Duchemin connection went for 48 yards to make it a 39-10 game with six minutes remaining. Andover added another touchdown in the waning minutes when St. Pierre had gone to his bench.
St. John's junior defensive end Collin Taylor had an outstanding game with double digit tackles and a sack of Brown.
"Collin is a tough guy to block," said St. Pierre. "He's long , incredibly fast and a very smart player. He's been doing it all year, and the best part is we have him back next season. Our defense and special teams played well. We'll work on correcting our mistakes this week."
It's back to the North final next weekend for the 8-1 Eagles.