St. John's Eagles Football '07

Thu, Nov 22, 2007 10:15 AM @ St. John's
Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Xaverian 0 7 3 7 17
St. John's 7 0 0 14 21
Xaverian Brothers 17, St. John's Prep 21. » Matthew Viglianti, Staff PhotographerMore photos

Prep players savor victory in season finale

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Thursday, November, 22 By Jean DePlacido

DANVERS | After quarterback Scott Darby took a knee with 18 seconds remaining, St. John's Prep football players raced onto the field at Cronin Field to celebrate a satisfying come-from-behind 21-17 win over Xaverian.

Two dominant defenses and two spotty offenses battled it out during yesterday's game, but the Eagles wound up having the upper hand on both sides of the ball.

For the first time since 1999, when B.C. High had already wrapped up the Catholic Conference title, this game did not have title implications between St. John's and Xaverian.

Once again, B.C. High had already clinched the league championship this season, but the rivalry between the Eagles and Hawks was every bit as intense as it always seems to be | especially for the seniors on both teams.

The victory gave the host Eagles (6-5) a winning season as as players lingered on the field after the end of the contest while family members took pictures and former Prep football standouts offered congratulations.

"It's nice to end the season this way," said Darby, who played a big part in the winning touchdown drive that began at the Eagles' 21-yard line.

Fellow senior Derek Coppola also had a monster game, gaining 213 yards on 31 carries. He scored the game-winning touchdown with less than a minute to play, taking a third-and-1 pitch from Darby and sailing up the right sideline and past Xaverian's Robert Crossen for the game's definitive score.

"It was just a regular belly right," Darby said of the call. "I started running and saw Derek was open. It was a 2-on-1 situation. Derek is faster than me, so I got the ball to him | and he didn't hesitate."

The pitch was actually a little high, and Coppola had to secure the ball before taking off.

"What a huge rush with a minute left in the game," said Coppola, who would like to play both football and baseball in college. "Scott saw the corner on the left side had moved to the right, and he optioned. They had one safety on that side, and I was able to walk into the end zone.

"After a tough season, this is a great feeling to win. I had complete confidence in our defense being able to hold them off after we scored. What a way for the last game of my high school career to end."

Xaverian knew that in order to win, Coppola had to be stopped. But similar to three years ago at the Hawk Bowl in Westwood, when Chris Zardas (now at UMass Amherst) was unstoppable in leading his team to a 16-15 upset win.

St. John's made the most of three big plays | two coming from Coppola, who opened the scoring with a 56-yard TD. The other was by sophomore Brendon Felder, who caught a fourth-and-7 from Darby at the Hawks 35-yard line and, after gaining a first down, was able to outrun the defense up the right sideline to put his team ahead, 14-10, in the fourth quarter.

"Pat Dempsey opened up a big hole for me," said Felder. "I saw him block and the hole was there for me."

Fullbacks Andrew McHugh and Patrick Higgins did a good job blocking for the Eagles along with Nate Brakeley, who was moved to defensive end. The offensive line held its own in the middle and played with determination. Xaverian only gained 24 yards on the ground on 18 attempts, while St. John's had 296 yards rushing on 53 carries.

"I blocked and did anything I could to help the team," said McHugh. "I'm only a junior, but playing with these seniors has been unbelievable. I'm so happy for all of them."

Having Higgins back in the lineup (after being out with an injury since the Catholic Memorial game three weeks ago) made a big difference on both sides of the ball. He gained 46 yards on 11 carries and was a factor on defense at linebacker.

Before the game began, Tom Jackson was honored for his 20 years of service to St. John's Prep. Jackson, who runs the Prep concession stand, was presented with a rocking chair by headmaster Dr. Skip Shannon.

Captains from previous Prep football state championship teams were also on the field for the ceremonial coin toss.

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