Brian St. Pierre is pleased with the attitude and hard work his players have put in during the offseason.
But the St. John's Prep head coach knows that because of the team's difficult schedule, both in and out of the Catholic Conference, it will take a total effort each game for the Eagles to succeed this fall.
Young and inexperienced a year ago, St. John's is hoping those growing pains will pay off this fall. The return of wide receiver and safety Wes Rockett, now a senior captain, from a season ending leg injury in 2017 will also help.
"Having Wes back is huge," said St. Pierre. "The attitude, energy and effort shown so far in practice has been great. This is a really good group of work with, and while we still have a lot of things to work on I'm confident we'll figure the rest out.
"Last season out of necessity, we had to play some people who weren't ready. We were in a lot of games, but we played like a young team."
Coming off a disappointing 5-6 year, the Eagles return with a lot of experience at the skill positions. Junior Matt Crowley is back at quarterback along with senior Will Potdevin. Crowley threw for almost 1,000 and fired nine touchdown passes as a sophomore after taking over the job during the season.
Crowley and Potdevin will have a strong senior receiving corps to throw to in Rockett, Max Freedman, Luke Brennan and Sean Majeski. Freedman was the squad's second-leading receiver last year with 17 catches for 344 yards and three TDs while Brennan caught 18 passes for 302 yards and two scores.
Aise Pream, a senior captain, will be the primary running back for the third straight season. He gained 1,201 yards and scored 10 touchdowns as a junior. Senior Trent Tully (47 carries for 304 yards and 6 TDs a year ago) provides a different look in the backfield with power running; he's 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds as opposed to the shifty 5-6, 150-pound Pream.
"It's definitely a plus to have so much experience at skill positions,," said St. Pierre. "The offensive line is my biggest concern because we're thin there and have a lot of new faces. That's the most important position because you're only as good as your O-line. We also have some concern at tight end, where (junior) Anthony Fagan is the starter, but we have to find guys behind him."
Senior captain Kevin Dewing and junior Cooper Smith (6-2, 300 lbs.) are returning starters at guard. Junior Mason Davis is at left tackle, and senior Will Moulton has been moved from defense to take over at center. Right tackle is up for grabs, with senior Jack Murphy in strong contention.
Defensively, the Eagles appear to be solid with cornerbacks Pream and junior Matt Duchemin returning. Rockett and returning starter Antael Rosa are the safeties.
Senior captain James Taylor, a 6-foot, 320-pounder who has been starting since late in his freshman year, anchors the defense once again at tackle with help from Dewing, Smith and Moulton. Senior Pat Keefe at the mike linebacker spot and captain Coltan Tangney and James Hanley on the outside are all experienced. Charlie Guinta (6-4, 205 lbs.) is at one defensive end, but expected starter Alex Lane will miss the season with an injury suffered in baseball.
"We've got eight starters back there and I expect the defense to be really strong. Taylor is always so difficult to block," said St. Pierre. "It's still very early, but the defense is shaping up."
The only change to the Prep's schedule is a non-league game with Westford Academy, which takes the place of Malden Catholic after the Lancers dropped all Catholic Conference football opponents this past June.
"You can't afford to look ahead because every single game on our schedule is going to be a challenge," said St. Pierre. "Our schedule is always tough, but it is what it is.
"A year ago we were a young team, but there are no excuses now."
Last year's record: 5-6 (lost to Everett in Division 1 North quarterfinals)
Head coach: Brian St. Pierre (5th season, 28-15)
Team captains: James Taylor, Sr. DT; Wes Rockett, Sr. WR; Aise Pream, Sr. RB/CB; Kevin Dewing, Sr. G; Coltan Tangney, Sr. LB
Top returning rusher: Aise Pream (171 carries, 1,201 yards, 10 TDs)
Top returning passer: Matt Crowley (57-for 95, 953 yards, 9 TDs)
Top returning receiver: Max Freedman (17 catches, 344 yards, 3 TD's)
Last league title: 2012 (Catholic Conference)
Did you know?: Catholic Memorial was supposed to play at Glatz Field on Friday night, October 5, but the game has been moved to CM the following day (3 p.m.) in order to give St. John's Prep a more balanced home/away schedule in 2019. Coach Brian St. Pierre requested the change because the Eagles would've had five home games and only two away this season ... which would result in five away in 2019. CM agreed to the change to balance things out.
Date Opponent Time
Sept. 7 Haverhill 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 Central Catholic 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 at Everett 2:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 Westford Academy 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 at Catholic Memorial 3 p.m.
Oct. 13 BC High 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Bridgewater-Raynham 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 at Xaverian 5 p.m.