St. John's Eagles Football '19

Sat, Sep 21, 2019 02:00 PM @ Central Catholic
Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
St. John's 7 7 7 7 28
Central Catholic 0 7 7 0 14

Central Catholic rallies, but falls to St. John's Prep in North title rematch

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Saturday, September, 21 By David Willis
Staff writer

LAWRENCE — A week after a dramatic victory over the defending Division 3 state champions, Central Catholic could not repeat the feat against the reigning Division 1 champ.

Central struck to tie the game moments into the second half, but St. John’s Prep rallied for two unanswered scores to defeat the Raiders 28-14 in front of an estimated 2,500 fans on a steamy Saturday afternoon at Lawrence Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“Our kids hung in there and fought back,” said Raiders coach Chuck Adamopoulos. “But they wore us down. That’s a good team, and they deserved to win.”

Saturday marked a rematch of the 2018 Division 1 North title game, which the Prep won 21-0. It was also a battle of two of the state’s top-ranked teams. Central entered the weekend ranked No. 1 in the state-wide Maxpreps.com high school football poll, and No. 3 in the Boston Herald’s Eastern Mass. rankings. St. John’s was ranked No. 2 by the Herald and No. 4 by Maxpreps.

“We hurt ourselves with too many penalties at the worst times,” said Adamopoulos. “We lost some good players to injures, and we were undermanned. But the kids played hard until the end.”

Haverhill resident Matt Duchemin gave St. John’s Prep the lead midway through the first quarter. The senior quad-captain hauled in a pass from Matt Crowley and sprinted 68 yards for a touchdown.

Crowley finished with four catches for 86 yards, had two 40-plus yard kickoff returns and made six tackles as a cornerback.

“Matt (Duchemin) is a great player for us,” said Prep coach Brian St. Pierre. “He covers their best player, he plays offense for us and he is one of our leaders. He’s huge for us and I’m glad to have him on our team.”

The Prep made it 14-0 before Central Catholic mounted its rally.

With 1:14 left before halftime, Raiders QB Ayden Pereira connected with JJ Mercuri for a 32-yard touchdown to make it a seven-point game.

Central then received the second half kickoff, and six plays later Pereira floated a perfect pass to Mark Ciccarelli, who ran in for a 58-yard touchdown to make it 14-14.

“We showed some guts coming out in the third quarter,” said Adamopoulos. “But we had a lot of guys playing both ways, and they wore us down. Depth hurt us today.”

The Prep retook the lead 5:01 later on a James Guy Jr. TD run, and Crowley added an insurance score on a QB sneak with 8:22 left in the game.

“Central’s very good,” said St. Pierre. “They’re talented and they’re a veteran club with a lot of guys back from last year’s team that was really good. Central always plays hard. They make you defend the whole field, and they always make your offense work.”

In his second career varsity start for the Raiders, Pereira threw for 167 yards and the two scores, giving him five touchdown passes in two games. Ciccarelli (four catches, 76 yards) and Mercuri (four catches, 71 yards) were his favorite targets. Mark Kassis (interception) and Dominic Pedi (sack) highlighted the Raider defense.

Central was forced to play the entire second half without receiver/defensive back Nate Hebert, who was carted off the field by paramedics at halftime.

The road doesn’t grow any easier for the Raiders, who face a third defending state champion next week.

On Saturday, Central Catholic will host 2018 Division 2 champ North Andover (1-1) for a 4 p.m. contest. The Scarlet Knights — who rolled over Lowell 41-14 on Friday — beat Central 14-7 last fall.

“We’ll have to see who can play next week,” said Adamopoulos. “We’ll have to see if the guys that left the game are OK. But North Andover is a very good opponent. We have to regroup, get back to work and get back after it.”

Game Statistics:

First Quarter

SJP — Matt Duchemin 68 pass from Matt Crowley (Nolan Philpott kick), 5:44

Second Quarter

SJP — James Guy Jr. 2 run (Philpott kick), 10:37

CC — JJ Mercuri 32 pass from Ayden Pereira (Nick Mazzie kick), 1:14 

Third Quarter

CC — Mark Ciccarelli 58 pass from Pereira (Mazzie kick), 9:12

SJP — Guy 13 run (Philpott kick), 4:01 

Fourth Quarter

SJP — Crowley 2 run (Philpott kick), 8:22



RUSHING: Central Catholic (24-80) — Ayden Pereira 10-42, Mark Kassis 5-27, George Chaya 5-8, Michael Brown 3-5, Dom Tritto 1-(-2); St. John's (32-157) — James Guy Jr. 21-116, Matt Crowley 7-19, Pat Nistl 4-22

PASSING: Central Catholic — Pereira 10-27-0, 167; St. John's —  Guy 8-14-0, 141

RECEIVING: Cenetral Catholic — Mark Ciccarelli 4-76, JJ Mercuri 4-71, Nate Hebert 1-10, Nick Donatio 1-10;  St. John's — Matt Duchemin 4-86, Jackson Delaney 2-30, Gus McGee 1-18, Joenel Aguero 1-7

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