I was lucky enough to be covering the Holy Name boys’ basketball team when the late Neil Fingleton made his pilgrimage across the pond to play for J.P. Ricciardi, Jim Davolio and the rest of the Naps.
Now, I knew Fingleton was seven feet, six inches tall and I was, as expected, amazed at how tall he was when I met him. What surprised me was how amazed I was at how tall he was every time I saw him after that. It’s like I’d forgotten how tall he was – every time.
It’s like that for me this year with the undefeated St. John’s High football team. I’ve read the game results, I’ve watched the Frenzy; they’re very good. But, if you go to see them play in person, like I did Saturday against Shepherd Hill, prepare to be amazed.
Here are a few statistical nuggets of note from the Pioneers’ 64-24 victory over the Rams:
- St. John’s scored 50 points in the first half, 40 coming in the first 14 minutes.
- The Pioneers needed just 32 offensive plays to score seven touchdowns and a field goal.
- SJ scored on its first nine possessions. The first non-scoring possession came at 5:57 of the third quarter.
- The Pioneers scored on three one-play drives, a two-play drive and a three-play drive.
- St. John’s longest scoring drive was seven plays.
- The Pioneers’ defense did not allow the Rams to earn a first down until the second quarter.
- The 50 points scored in the first half was a season-high for 6-0 St. John’s.
- Season statistics – so far – for St. John’s that are worth mentioning:
- The Pioneers are averaging 49 points a game.
- The SJ offense has scored 33, 34, 46, 55, 62 and 64 points so far this season.
St. John’s quarterback Steven Bucciaglia turned in another impressive performance, completing 19-of-24 passes for 324 yards and a season-high five touchdowns. For the season the senior has completed 99-of-138 passes for 1,880 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Bucciaglia’s scoring strikes against the Rams were to Zach Pedone (27 yards), Colin Deso (29 yards), Hunter Gorgas (eight yards), Josh Shrestha (51 yards) and Shea Gallo-Kolegue (32 yards).
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Bucciaglia, prior to the Shepherd Hill game, threw for four touchdowns against Catholic Memorial, three against Springfield Central, four against Leominster, four against Wachusett, and two against Shrewsbury. He has also scored three rushing touchdowns.
“I think Steven is getting better every time out,” St. John’s coach John Andreoli said. “He is demonstrating that he has the ability to play at a real high level against some really good teams. A lot of the time guys are open is because Steven is making the right reads and he’s throwing to the right guy against the right defense.
“Also, a big part of Steven’s success is that he is not throwing into traffic and he’s making throws that he can make comfortably,” Andreoli said. “On option routes the receivers are getting to the place they need to be to be open. We ran one play to Zach Pedone, a little curl, but executed properly you’ve got a guy wide open who can run with the ball in the open field.”
The pass to Pedone ended up being the first score of the game, a 27-yard scoring strike from Bucciaglia.
Chris Moriarty, St. John’s associate head coach – considered to be the “quarterback whisper” by many in these parts – said Bucciaglia does many things well as the Pioneers’ signal-caller, but believes there is one thing he does best of all.
“I think what Steven does best is he recognizes defenses quickly and checks to the right play if need be; he does a great job at that,” said Moriarty, the former Burncoat High head coach. “He gets our guys the ball in the right spots, which is huge.”
Moriarty said having a quarterback who can recognize a defense and audible out of a play that won’t work to one that does a large percentage of the time, is a luxury.
“It’s everything,” Moriarty said. “You can’t teach a quarterback experience. You can’t simulate game speed in practice. So, having a second-year quarterback who can read defenses and change plays is key.”
According to his coaches, Bucciaglia got his success the old-fashioned way – he earned it.
“He’s just a worker,” Moriarty said. “He’s a weight room kid and a film kid. He threw with those kids (his receivers) all summer; they started back in April, to be honest. I don’t know if there’s a team that threw more than our team did right through the summer. It seems like he was out here with his receivers every day. Steven is a product of his work ethic.”
Bucciaglia, quiet and reserved by nature, is adjusting to all the attention a starting quarterback on an undefeated team gets. After the Shepherd Hill game he spoke with three different internet and print reporters as well as TV-3s Kevin Shea and Andy Lacombe.
“My job is easy,” Bucciaglia said. “I just have to get the ball to my receivers and they do the rest of the work. Knowing how good they are all is something that really makes my job easy.”
As far as being able to read defense and switch to another play, he credits the coaching staff with that.
“My coaches do a great job letting me know that with a different look I can do a different thing,” Bucciaglia said. “I’m ready for a lot of situations and that’s a credit to our coaches.”
Without coming right out and acknowledging it, it’s clear that Bucciaglia and Moriarty have a special relationship.
“Coach Mo is awesome. He’s and aggressive play caller and that’s how I like it,” Bucciaglia said. “He is great during practice and on Fridays and Saturdays he’s ready to go. He sees a lot of things out on the field that I don’t see and we communicate well with each other, and he gets on me when I’m wrong. It’s a great relationship.”
Bucciaglia said he is excited about the opportunity to play in college next year.
“I definitely want to play in college. I’m hoping to play at a Division 2 school, maybe in Division 1 if that is something that opens up for me,” Bucciaglia said. “I just want to play. I’ll go wherever I have to so I can have a chance to play.
“I’m getting a good amount of interest from colleges,” he continued. “With each game I get a little bit more interest, which is cool. “I don’t have an exact idea of where, but I was thinking a Northeast-10 school. A lot of NE-10 schools have reached out. Whatever open up for me I’ll take.”
Naps Nip Polar Bears
After an even first half, Holy Name was one point better than North in the second half, hanging on for the win, 20-19.
For the 2-3 Naps the win was their second straight after starting the season 0-3. The loss could have delivered a mighty blow to the Polar Bears’ postseason plans; they fell to 4-2 after having won four straight.
North jumped out to a 12-0 first quarter lead, thanks to touchdown runs of 19 yards by Jose Alicea and 12 yards by Uriah Kemoh.
Holy Name, however, answered the first-quarter challenge the Polar Bears put forth in the second quarter, with a pair of scores. A 47-yard scoring strike from Matt Cormier to Alex Scavone put the Naps on the board and they pulled into a 12-12 tie later in the quarter on a three-yard run by Cormier.
In the third quarter North pulled ahead, 19-12, on a seven-yard run by Kemoh, who also booted the extra point. Holy Name refused to be denied, however, and Andrew Debs cut the Naps deficit to 19-18 with an eight-yard run. Conway Campbell then plowed in for the two-point conversion lifting Holy Name to a 20-19 lead.
After opening the season with losses to Doherty, Uxbridge and Blackstone-Millville, The Naps have now won twice in seven days, having defeated Sutton and North.
SPM Scores Early and Often, Holds off Patriots
Running back Matt Dumphy and quarterback Dan Malm each scored a pair of touchdowns as the Guardians jumped out to leads of 28-6 at the end of the first quarter and 50-14 at halftime in its win over Burncoat.
Dumphy scored first-quarter touchdowns on a 20-yard run and a 54-yard punt return for St. Peter-Marian, which improved to 4-2 with the win. Malm scored on a 36-yard jaunt in the first period and a one-yard quarterback sneak in the second quarter.
Also scoring for the Guardians were Justin Laporte, on a one-yard run, Cameron Williams, on a seven-yard run, and Jeff Sullivan, on a 30-yard touchdown toss from Malm. SPM kicker C.J. Holmberg successfully converted on all six extra-point attempts he took.
Burncoat (2-4), which sputtered in the first half with just a touchdown in each quarter, got things going with a 20-point second half, including 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Matt Amissah cut the SPM lead to 28-6 when he hauled in a 51-yard TD pass from Jack Cooney. Bryant Cordero then sliced the Guardians lead 28-14 when he scored on a 12-yard touchdown run and scored the two-point conversion.
Patriots’ running back Nicholas Locantore scored three second half TDs, on runs of three, four and 15-yards.
Week 6 Results
Doherty 53, South 0
Abby Kelley 33, Monty Tech 0
St. Peter-Marian 50, Burncoat 34
Holy Name 20, North 19
Assabet Valley 22, Worcester Tech 0
Shrewsbury 41 Algonquin 7
Wachusett 49, Leominster 19
St. John’s 64, Shepherd Hill 24