St. John's Eagles Football '07

Fri, Sep 07, 2007 07:00 PM @ Peabody
Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
St. John's 27 3 14 0 44
Peabody 0 0 0 0 0
Left, Peabody High School senior Josh Green defends against St. John's Prep captain Derek Coppola of North Reading during the home opener Friday evening. The Tanners were outscored early in the game and suffered a 44-0 loss.  » Heather Mancini, Staff PhotographerMore photos

St. John's Prep football starts season with a bang, pounding Peabody 44-0

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Friday, September, 07 By Jean DePlacido

PEABODY | The beginning of the Dick Woodbury era in Peabody didn't go as planned last night. The crowd was large and enthusiastic for the first Arthur Adamopoulos Football Classic in memory of the late Tanner coach, who was at the helm for 20 years. The Eagles spoiled the party by scoring on seven of their first eight possessions and rolled to a 44-0 win.

Unfortunately, the Tanners lost more than just a football game with several injuries to key people. On the very first series junior quarterback Tommy Ciulla was sacked for a loss and suffered not only a game-ending injury, but possibly a season-ending broken collarbone. Fullback and linebacker Paul Hartigan also went down with an injury early on, and before halftime starting center Anthony Panopoulos suffered a serious back injury.

"We did not get off to a good start," said Woodbury. "Ciulla is probably out for the year. He knew right away it was either his shoulder or collarbone, and we had to go with our third-string center. A couple of linebackers went down too and we already were without Kevin Skop (senior running back), who is hurt. A lot of our offense broke down."

The Eagles had great field position throughout the first half and capitalized on it time after time. After stopping Peabody at its own 16-yard line, the Prep nearly blocked Justin Provencher's punt, which only went 22 yards. It took St. John's five plays to get on the board when senior tailback Derek Coppola raced around left end from 6 yards out.

Once again Peabody was bottled up deep in its own territory, and Coppola took the punt on the Tanner 33-yard line, going all the way for his second TD of the game with 5:42 remaining in the opening quarter.

The Prep defense forced another punt on the next possession, this one from the Peabody endzone, and three plays later the Eagles were on the board again after Darby scampered 30 yards off tackle. Before the quarter ended Darby hit Peter Neal for a 26-yard touchdown pass, and a 26-yard field goal by Andrew McTeague made it 30-0 at the half.

"I'm pleased that so many kids got a chance to play and did well," said Prep coach Jim O'Leary, who went to his bench to start the second half and never used his starters again."Things went bad for Peabody very early, especially losing their quarterback. This is the second new offensive scheme they have seen in three years, and it is tough for the kids to learn, but they will be fine.

"Our offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage from the first play, and showed a spark I hadn't seen. Darby made a couple of throws right on the money, and our special teams were very good. We kept putting new bodies in, and the young kids looked good. George Sessoms (four carries for 100 yards) is a Peabody kid, and he ran hard. I was pleased with what I saw from all three young quarterbacks, who didn't have any varsity experience until tonight."

Sessoms raced 80 yards for a touchdown with just over a minute gone in the third quarter, and freshman Chris Coady, who ran for 70 yards on three carries, capped the scoring with a 14-yard keeper. Peabody had a few threats, driving to the St. John's 28-yard line just before halftime before fumbling the ball away. Later in the third quarter the Tanners threatened again at the Prep 31, but were stopped short on a fourth down attempt.

Mike O'Brien was 3 for 11 for 18 yards in his first varsity action while senior Dulu Gaye was the leading rusher with 60 yards on 10 carries. Scott Diefenbach added 41 yards on the ground.

"There were positives tonight, and O'Brien did a great job taking over with no experience. You don't get many snaps as the backup in preseason. But we had too many breakdowns," said Woodbury. "We dug ourselves a huge hole early, and the Prep has a lot of speed, and a lot of talent. They are going to win a lot of games."

The Adamopoulos trophy, with a big gold football on it, was presented to O'Leary and his captains after the game. Chuck Adamopoulos and his mother Desi did the honors. Chuck wished both teams good luck, but added not too much luck for St. John's next week. The Eagles travel to play Adamopoulos' Central Catholic team next Saturday night.

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