WORCESTER – Every coach worth his whistle and clipboard wants to start the season with a win, no matter the opponent. But, when your team is able to not only win its first game out but also score the first time it touches the ball, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
That was exactly the scenario that unfolded for St. John’s in its 33-3 win Friday night at Catholic Memorial in West Roxbury as sophomore Eamonn Dennis opened the Pioneers 2017 season with a 96-yard kickoff return that set the tone for the lopsided victory.
“[Dennis] is a fantastic threat to do exactly what he did,” St. John’s coach John Andreoli said. “He got his hands on the ball at the 4-yard line and he was gone.”
Once he had caught and securely tucked away the football Dennis, who Andreoli said is just one of two Pioneers who can run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds or faster (Peter Oliver is the other), burst up the middle of the field, easily eluding the few Catholic Memorial players who had a shot at him.
“Once he got through the wedge as quickly as he did – I don’t think anyone laid a glove on him – I think we realized he was going to break it,” Andreoli said. “He’s got tremendous speed; he got through the wedge, put it in another gear and he was gone.”
Complementing Dennis’ blazing speed was the play of Steve Bucciaglia, St. John’s senior quarterback, who picked up where he left off last season, completing 11-of-19 passes for 252 yards and four touchdowns. Bucciaglia’s scoring strikes went to Dennis (34 yards), Coleman Drugotch (also 34 yards), Liam Doran (15 yards) and Oliver (78 yards).
“[Bucciaglia] played very well; he threw the ball well, made all the throws, and stretched the field when he had to,” Andreoli said. “[Bucciaglia] came back bigger and stronger and he is an excellent runner as well as being such an accurate passer. He made a play in the second quarter, on a third and seven, where he was back to pass, nobody was open so he pulled the ball down, ran it, got the first down and delivered a heck of a blow at the end of the run. That was a key play in the game at a key time.”
“Steven’s a great leader,” Andreoli continued. “He’s one of our captains, he’s smart, he knows the offense, he has a very good huddle presence and the kids really respect him.”
Andreoli also credited the Pioneers’ offensive line for the team’s success passing the ball against Catholic Memorial.
“Our scouting report was that Catholic Memorial like to send people on every snap,” Andreoli said. “Our guys up front – Neal Nasuti, Ian Schade, Liam Daly, Frederico Ernst and Andrew Stolberg – they did a real good job blocking their blitz game and giving Steven time to throw.”
The Pioneers defense also turned in an impressive performance, keeping Catholic Memorial out of the end zone all night long.
“Defensively we forced seven three-and-outs in the game and after three of those three-and-outs we scored when we got the ball back,” Andreoli said. “And we forced two turnovers as well. All we gave up was three points on a field goal; that’s a pretty stingy defensive performance.
“All things considered, all three phases – offense, defense and special teams – were pretty solid,” he added.
Up next for the Pioneers is their home opener at 1 p.m. Saturday against Springfield’s Central High School, which lost at home Friday night, 55-13, to Bishop Sullivan High School of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“I give Central a lot of credit for taking on that team in the early part of their schedule. Bishop Sullivan is one of the top 64 teams in the country with a bunch of Division 1 (recruits) on the team,” Andreoli said. “We played them in the sectionals in 2013 (St. John’s defeated Central 37-32 in that game). They’re very well coached, they’re athletic, they can run and they’re physical. They will be a great test for us.”
Campanale, Rioux Lead Shrewsbury past Shepherd Hill
Junior quarterback Drew Campanale rushed for 90 yards on nine carries and completed 4-of-7 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown to help lead the Colonials to a come-from-behind, 14-10 win over Shepherd Hill Friday night in Shrewsbury.
“Drew is a returning starter and a captain and he’s a dual threat; he can throw it and he can run it,” Shrewsbury coach John Aloisi said. “That can put defense in a bind. It’s a big advantage to have him being able to throw and run as well as he does.”
Also playing a key role in the win was senior running back Tim Rioux, who gained 54 yards on 14 carries. Rioux was not around last year for the Colonials’ march to the Division 2 state title game; he missed the last six games of last year with a broken collarbone.
“[Rioux] has been real hungry to get back on the field,” Aloisi said. “He is a real instinctive back; he runs very hard, he is a great competitor and a great leader for us.”
Shrewsbury jumped out to an early 7-0 lead when Campanale hit senior wide receiver Chris Campbell with a 35-yard scoring strike on the Colonials first drive of the game. Campbell made a leaping one-handed grab of Campanale’s pass and then sprinted into the end zone.
Shepherd Hill scored 10 second-quarter points however, and led 10-7 at halftime.
Shrewsbury took the lead for good on its opening drive of the third quarter, marching 63 yards on 13 plays, Jonathan White capping the drive with a three-yard touchdown run. The time of the drive was seven minutes and 38 seconds.
While Campanale and Rioux received a lot of post-game attention, Aloisi said the Colonials offense is multi-dimensional.
“Certainly Drew and Tim and Chris Campbell are key components to our offense, but we’ve got other weapons, too,” Aloisi said. “Guys like Johnny White and Cam Schaefer. I think have good balance as far as our skill positions are concerned.”
While every win is a big win, especially in the season-opener, Aloisi said he thought it Friday night’s win was a momentum-builder for his team.
“We’re young; we don’t have a lot of experience coming back,” Aloisi said. “We have a few guys that played prominent roles last year back, guys like Campanale and Campbell, but for the most part, almost everywhere, we’ve got new guys.
“With that lack of experience it was extra nice to hold on on Friday for the win,” Aloisi continued. “I think we will keep getting better each week. But, we’ve got a lot of work to do; we made a lot of errors. So to beat a team like that, especially Week 1 is nice.”
Guardians Win in McKay’s Debut
Congratulations are in order for the St. Peter-Marian football team, which presented Justin McKay with his first win as its new head coach, defeating Auburn High, 20-0 on Saturday at Guardian Field.
The Guardians not only shut out the Rockets, they held the traditionally potent Auburn offense to less than 100 total yards.
Offensive stars for St. Peter-Marian included: Matt Dumphy, who caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dan Malm and also rushed for a 61-yard TD and finished with 132 yards of total offense; Owen Leary, who caught a 10-yard TD toss from Malm; and Malm, who completed 8-of-12 passes for 130 yards and the two touchdowns, and also found time to pick off a pass from his defensive back position.
Wachusett Turns Back Doherty in 2OT
The opening game of the 2017 high school football season lived up to its pre-game billing and then some as Wachusett defeated Doherty, 28-22, in double overtime Thursday night at Foley Stadium’s Commerce Bank Field.
The Mountaineers prevailed when defensive lineman Sean McGeary made a strip sack and teammate Sam Brewer recovered the ball and returned it 75 yards for the game-winning score.
The game was tied, 16-16 at the end of regulation and 22-22 after the first overtime.
Scoring in the first overtime for Wachusett was Brewer, on a 13-yard run, while Doherty matched the Mountaineers rushing touchdown with one of its own, from Tajon Vassar, who scampered in from eight yards out.
Wachusett jumped out to a 9-0 second-quarter lead on a two-yard run by Cole Durkan and a 22-yard field goal by Griffin McDonald.
Doherty pulled to within a point, 9-8, later in the second quarter when Evan Brunelle caught a 41-yard pass from quarterback Chris Schoen and Vassar bolted up the middle for the two-point conversion.
The Mountaineers extended their lead to 16-8 just before halftime when Gavin Maezo hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass from Wachusett quarterback Melke Shabo and McDonald added the extra point.
The Highlanders tied the game, 16-16, to force overtime with a fourth-quarter score. Brunelle hooked up with Vassar from 52 yards out to pull Doherty to within two, 16-14, and then Vassar tied the game, 16-16, with the ensuing two-point conversion.
Bonsu Leads Bears Past David Prouty
The Abby Kelley Foster Charter School football team opened its 2017 season with a rousing win, defeating the Panthers and new head coach Pat Rossi, 28-16, Friday night.
The Bears led, 14-0 after the first quarter, 21-0 early in the second quarter and 28-8 at halftime.
Cyrus Bonsu scored AKF’s first and last touchdowns. The first came on a 24-yard run, the second on and 69-yard kickoff return. Also scoring for the Bears were Greg Asare – on a 14-yard run – and Delvin Attafah, who caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Matt Kerr.
WEEK 1 SCORES
St. Peter-Marian 20, Auburn 0
Algonquin 35, North 14
Nipmuc 48, Burncoat 12
St. John’s 33, Catholic Memorial 3
Shrewsbury 14, Shepherd Hill 10
Oxford 31, Worcester Voke 14
Murdock 28, South 0
Abby Kelley Foster 28, David Prouty 16
Wachusett 28, Doherty 22 (2OT)