St. John's Eagles Football '07

Talent at skill positions could bode well for St. John's Prep

  • Currently 0.0 with 0 votes.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
St. John's Prep's Scott Darby throws passes at practice. » Linsey Tait, Staff Photographer

Tuesday, September, 04 By Jean DePlacido

DANVERS | In this, the 100th season of football at St. John's Prep, it will be the team's skill players who will be asked to carry the squad while a slew of newcomers get used to life at the varsity level.

Fortunately for the Eagles, their talent at their offensive skill positions is in capable hands.

Tailback Derek Coppola and quarterback Scott Darby are ready for big senior seasons. Coppola ran for 1,371 yards and scored 13 total touchdowns a year ago. Darby, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound signal caller who has started for the last year-and-a-half, threw for 939 yards and 10 TDs last fall.

Last year, Prep veteran head coach Jim O'Leary had the most seniors he has ever had in his 24 years at the helm (50). That means this year's squad has only a handful of players with experience | including just six returning starters on offense and three on defense.

Naturally there are holes to fill, particularly on the lines. The only others back on offense are left guard Nate Blakeley, wide receiver Patrick Dempsey, fullback Patrick Higgins and kicker Andrew McTeague. On the defensive side outside linebackers Michael Papagni and Andrew McHugh, along with cornerback Peter Neal are back. All are seniors except McHugh, who missed part of last season with an ankle injury. "Overall the numbers are there, but we are rebuilding both the offensive and defensive lines," said O'Leary, who has 30 seniors this fall. "If the young linemen respond, we should competitive in the Catholic Conference.

"We have people who have been through the program. They don't have a lot of experience because so many of our games went right down to the wire last season, but this is their time to step up. We have 10 linemen looking for five spots up front, and all are very new and inexperienced. We're taking a good long look at everybody."

O'Leary has been pleased with the linebacker corps of Higgins, Papagni, Bobby Marraffa (a 6-foot-1 senior) and McHugh. Coppola and sophomore Brendon Felder will alternate at one cornerback spot, with Neal returning at the other. The Eagles are still trying to find somebody to step in at safety.

The kicking game is solid with McTeague. Felder will also see action on offense at flanker, while sophomore George Sessoms has looked good and will play behind Coppola in the backfield.

Every year the Prep plays one of the most challenging schedules in the state, and this season it's even more demanding with the addition of mighty Everett. The team's first two games are on the road (at Peabody and Central Catholic), followed by home tilts with Brockton and the aforementioned Crimson Tide. The Eagles' Catholic Conference schedule doesn't begin until November.

That slate isn't an easy task for any team | let along a very young squad. "I'm excited and I think we will be pretty good, but the question is how good will our opponents be," said O'Leary. "That first game (tomorrow night at Peabody) is very important. We have to win on the road | and we have to stay healthy."

McHugh will take some of the load off Coppola running the ball, while junior Greg Donahue figures to back up Darby. One serious injury happened on the first day of camp in Maine when defensive end Danny Vaczy (one of the few with experience) broke his foot and will be out of action 6-8 weeks.

"We'll do things differently to fit the talent we have," said O'Leary. "We have the numbers and people; it's a question of filling the holes with the right people. Cronin Field has been redone with all new natural sod, which will make it a great venue for the home schedule."

Coach: Jim O'Leary (24th season, 163-77-2)

Captains: Michael Papagni, Scott Darby and Derek Coppola

Style of offense: Multiple

Style of defense: Very active

Last winning season: 2006 (7-4)

Last league title: 2005 (Tied for Catholic Conference title)

Did you know? Portable lights will be set up at Cronin Field for the Eagles' home game vs. Brockton on Friday, Sept. 28, marking the first time a game has been played under the lights at St. John's.

0 Story Comments