Consistency. Winning. A tradition of excellence.
Those are three of the major hallmarks of the St. John’s Prep football program, which year-in and year-out can match up with the very best squads the Bay State has to offer. As the all-boys Catholic school’s premier athletic endeavor, playing football for the Eagles is all about pride, preparation and producing when it matters most.
There have been only three head coaches since 1967, starting with Fred Glatz, continuing with Jim O’Leary and now former Eagles’ star Brian St. Pierre is in his third season.
The Glatz Era began in 1967 with the former Pittsburgh Steeler coaching for 17 seasons, posting a 105-41-7 record with only one losing season. His 1967 team was undefeated and won a state championship while the 1982 squad went 9-0-1 and beat Whitman-Hanson, 7-0, on a catch by David Glatz to win the Division 2 Super Bowl.
“There’s no doubt about it: we’ve had a lot of talented players,” said Glatz. “Once you start winning it’s an attraction to come to the Prep, and we’ve been fortunate to get them from all over. They came to us; we didn’t go out and get them.”
O’Leary, who had been an assistant under Glatz, took over the reigns in 1984 and led the Eagles through the 2013 season. He posted a 207-110-2 record with 24 winning seasons, nine Catholic Conference championships, six Super Bowl appearances and Division 1 Super Bowl titles in 1997 and 2012.
Over the years the program kept growing in size and stature, with players going on to excel in college at the Division 1 and D-1 AA levels. The names of dozens of former Eagles can be found on Division 2 and 3 college rosters as well, with so many of them at NESCAC schools it is like old home week when those colleges face each other.
There will probably never be another team like O’Leary’s undefeated ‘97 squad led by captains Wayne Lucier, Zack Magliaro, St. Pierre and Brian Lentz. St. John’s capped off its regular season in dramatic fashion, beating Xaverian 15-14 on Thanksgiving before a crowd of over 10,000 fans at Cronin Stadium. A quarterback, St. Pierre raced 43 yards to the end zone and Lentz rushed for the winning two-point conversion behind the blocking of Lucier and Magliaro.
The icing on the cake was a Super Bowl championship over New Bedford, 25-0. The Eagles were ranked No. 1 in Massachusetts and New England and 23rd nationally that year, and both St. Pierre and Lucier played on Sundays in the NFL after their college days.
The 2001 squad had its share of heroics, too, including a Hail Mary 63-yard pass from quarterback Dan Ross to Lonnie Hill that broke a 14-14 tie with seconds left in regulation for a 20-14 victory and trip to the playoffs. In 2002 St. John’s was unbeaten until a heartbreaking Super Bowl loss to nemesis Everett.
Five former Eagles made it all the way to the NFL starting with Dick Farley, a defensive back who played for the San Diego Chargers in the American Football League from 1968-69. Fullback Rob Konrad had a six-year career as the starting fullback for the Miami Dolphins after being drafted in the second round out of Syracuse. Both St. Pierre, who went to Pittsburgh in the fifth round, and Lucier, who was drafted by the New York Giants in the seventh round, were chosen after starring at Boston College and Colorado, respectively. St. Pierre was in the NFL for 10 years, playing for the Steelers, Ravens, Cardinals and Panthers. Jon Goff, St. John’s Prep Class of 2002, was drafted by the Giants after a standout career at Vanderbilt and played middle linebacker until a second knee injury ended his career.
Mike Panos and Jon Loyte both played at St. John’s before going to Boston College; former SJP star Jake Burt is a tight end for BC now. Highly recruited linebacker Nick Borseti played at Notre Dame, Zack Magliaro played at Maine, Brett Rice and Brian Connolly suited up for West Point, and both Eric and Brian Toner had good careers at Stanford.
St. Pierre has been around the Prep football program from the time he was a young boy accompanying his father, team doctor Dave St. Pierre,
“I always knew I wanted to play for St. John’s,” he said. “When I took over as coach, the weight of living up to what Fred and Jim started was there. That’s quite a legacy they left, but what made it a little easier is I knowing Fred and playing for Jim; I was used to the football culture.
“Football has always been a huge sport here, with a great history and a very long list of good players. We’ve had five guys go pro; I don’t know many schools that can make that claim.”
St. Pierre credits O’Leary with starting the trend of taking on any opponent at any time anywhere, no matter how far the Eagles have to travel. In the years before Everett was on the Prep schedule every year, O’Leary was dying to play the Crimson Tide and used to say he would play in a parking lot if that’s what it took.
“A lot of North Shore teams didn’t want to play us because we had kids from their towns on our roster. Jim went out and found games; it all began with Brockton,” said St. Pierre.
When games with local teams no longer an option, O’Leary went out and scheduled powerhouse Brockton High. In their first meeting, St. John’s knocked off the Boxers in overtime at Cronin Stadium in 1991 en route to its first undefeated regular season under O’Leary. Later that same year the team, led by running back Kevin Dwan, lost to Brockton, 13-8, in the Division 1A Super Bowl at Nickerson Field.
“That first Brockton game paved the way for all the other big games to follow. Adding Everett to the schedule was another important part of it,” said St. Pierre. “Every week is an absolute battle. Some coaches ease into their schedule, but that doesn’t happen here.
“That’s why I came here, and it’s part of the attraction of being the coach. The kids all want to play in those big games; a chance to measure themselves against the best in the state.”
Football began at the Prep back in 1907, and the first Thanksgiving game in 1911 resulted in a 6-0 loss at Haverhill. Three seasons later the Eagles won the National Catholic title at Comiskey Park in Chicago, beating DePaul Academy, 8-6, on a safety. That team was invited to the White House to meet president Woodrow Wilson.
In the early years names like David “Tank” Crowley, Paul “Buster” DiVincenzo (who later coached for six winning seasons in the early 1960s), Charlie Winchester, Joe Ferri, Bob St. Pierre and John Preston led the way.
In Glatz’s first season, the Eagles beat Archbishop Williams and legendary coach Armond Colombo, 7-6 led by Steve Harrison, who led the state in rushing. That team posted a perfect 9-0 record and won the Catholic Conference and Class B title.
In 1970, the Prep ended a 32-game winning streak for Swampscott head coach Stan Bondelevitch, and in 1982 the Eagles culminated an unbeaten season with a Division 2 Super Bowl win.
The 1991 campaign was the first unbeaten regular season for O’Leary, whose team was 10-0 and ranked in the top 25 nationally by USA Today. Between 2001-05 the Eagles won or shared five straight Catholic Conference titles, losing just two games.
St. Pierre was named Mass Gatorade Player of the Year in 1998, and that same honor went to Matt Antonelli (later a first round draft choice of the San Diego Padres) in 2002 and current University of Pennsylvania senior Alex Moore in 2012.
There were other greats along the way like Mike Pitt, who played at Northeastern, and Chris Zardas, a running back who had an outstanding career at UMass.
In 2010 Tyler Coppola set a school record for gaining 346 yards and scoring five touchdowns in a game. The previous year one of the Coppola triplets, Jared, was paralyzed in a preseason scrimmage game; his long recovery process has been supported by St. John’s Prep coaches and teammates.
St. John’s can also claim its share of prominent coaches in the college and pro ranks starting with Farley, who had a great career at Williams College; Brian Kelley, who is currently the head coach at Notre Dame; and Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, who previously served as offensive coordinator for the Patriots and head coach at Penn State.
St. John’s Prep Football
State championships: Six, including the National Catholic title in 1914, state crowns in 1966 and 1967, and Super Bowl wins in 1982, 1997 and 2012.
Catholic Conference titles: 16
Runs of dominance: The Eagles had only one losing season under head coach Fred Glatz from 1967-83. Coach Jim O’Leary’s teams then made six Super Bowl appearances between 1984-2013 as his Eagles had an amazing string of five solo or shared league titles from 2001-05.
All-time greats: Brian St. Pierre, Rob Konrad, Wayne Lucier, Dick Farley, Steve Harrison, Jonathan Goff, Ollie Eberth, Nick Borseti, Brian Toner, Derek Coppola, Jake Burt, Jim Panos, Matt Antonelli, Chris Zardas, Johnny Thomas, Alex Moore, Lucas Bavaro, Mike Pitt.
Played Division 1 college football: Brian St. Pierre (Boston College), Rob Konrad (Syracuse), Wayne Lucier (Colorado), Jon Goff (Vanderbilt), Mike Panos (Boston College), Jon Loyte (Boston College), Jake Burt (Boston College), Brian Toner (Stanford), Eric Stanford (Stanford), Nick Borseti (Notre Dame), Johnny Thomas (Penn State), Brian Connolly (West Point), Brett Rice (West Point).
Played in the NFL: Brian St. Pierre (drafted by Pittsburgh Steelers while also quarterbacking Arizona, Baltimore and Carolina); Konrad (fullback drafted in second round by Dolphins who played six years in Miami and one year with the Raiders); Wayne Lucier (offensive lineman drafted in 7th round by Giants, playing three years for New York); Jon Goff (linebacker drafted in 5th round by Giants, playing four years for New York and winning a Super Bowl); Dick Farley (defensive back who played two seasons with the AFL’s San Diego Chargers).
ROUNDING OUT ST. JOHN’S PREP’S TOP 5
Wrestling: Under head coach Manny Costa, the Eagles have been a powerhouse with 27 Division 1 individual state championships, 14 All-State titlists and two team state titles. There have only been five high school wrestlers in the state with 200 or more wins in their four-ear career and three (Ian Butterbrodt (223), Mike Pedro (213) and Hunter Costa (206)) are from St. John’s. Nathan Cote and Ryan Malo were New England champs as well, and Ryan Harding won an All-State title.
Baseball: Winning back-to-back state titles in 1999-2000, the Prep’s state record 15-game playoff win streak is just the tip of the ice berg. Coach Pat Yanchus’ 491 wins in 33 seasons are the most by any coach in North Shore history. Future pro’s Matt Antonelli, Ryan Leahy, Stephen Peterson and Brandon Bingel are among the team’s best-ever players. In addition to two Super 8 finals berths, the Prep won Division 1 North in 1989, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2010 with four other finals trips.
Hockey: The only North Shore high schooler to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated as “The Can’t Miss Kid”, Bobby Carpenter of Peabody, had an 18-year NHL career, becoming the first American to score 50 goals in a season. He’s the best ever to wear the Prep colors. Mike Kelfer, John McCarthy, Colin Blackwell, Sam Kurker and Brian Pinho are just a few of the great ones to wear the sweater of the Eagles, who won state titles in 1979, 1985 and 2015. St. John’s Prep has played for the Super 8 championship three times in the last six seasons.
Swimming: Coach Tony Padvaiskas has led St. John’s Prep to 11 state championships. Joe Turk, Jamie Mannion, Aaron Athanas, Ryan Fortin, Jake Bennett are among the top individual swimmers in school history while Tom Gately, Steve Amanti and Jeff Fiore have been some of the most influential.