Another week of high school football, another week of big-time wins for local teams.
The Shrewsbury High football team improved to 4-0 with a 35-0 victory over winless Leominster High, while St. John’s and its video-game like offense rolled to 4-0, overwhelming Wachusett Regional, 55-21. Not to be outdone, Doherty High managed to get out of its own way long enough on Saturday to come-from-behind and defeat St. Peter-Marian, 26-22.
Other local team picking up Week 4 victories included Burncoat High (22-0 over Sutton), North High (40-12 over Worcester Tech) and the Abby Kelley Foster Charter School (43-14 over Quaboag).
Shrewsbury coach John Aloisi feels that folks looking at the final score of the Colonials win over the 0-4 Blue Devils and thinking it was just another lopsided victory are making a mistake.
“It was a very competitive game,” Aloisi said. “It was 6-0 right before the half and we were able to sneak one in right there at the end of the second quarter and then get a score on the first possession of the second half.
“It went from 6-0 to 21-0 before they had a possession; that helped us a lot,” Aloisi said. “We had a pick-6 right after that, too. So, in a matter of a few minutes we were able to capitalize on a mistake, make some big plays and go into the fourth quarter with a 28-0 lead.”
Thanks to a four-yard run by Jonathan White, the Colonials led, 6-0, when quarterback Drew Campanale hit Chris Campbell with a 67-yard scoring strike just before halftime to push the
lead to 12-0. White then bulled in for the two-point conversion to make the lead at intermission 14-0.
On Shrewsbury’s opening possession of the third quarter Campanale and Campbell hooked up again, this time from 19 yards out, and Phil Smyrnios tacked on the first of his three extra points, and the Colonials led, 21-0.
A few minutes later the lead grew to 28-0, thanks to a 10-yard interception return by Shrewsbury’s Nate Hautala. Campanale closed out the scoring in the fourth quarter, going in from a yard out.
“We had some big plays, which helped us out a lot, and we won the turnover battle, 4-0,” Aloisi said. “I think the game was a little more competitive than the score indicated, but we were certainly happy with the win. Scoring on those sandwich possessions around the half was huge.
“But, we were choppy at times; we didn’t move the ball as consistently as I would have liked,” Aloisi said. “Our defense played well the last three quarters but in the first quarter we were bending quite a bit and Leominster is a good team and is very well coached, so I was worried.”
The St. John’s win over Wachusett may have been as easy as it looked as the Pioneers jumped out to leads of 21-0 after one quarter, 28-0 early in the second period and 41-7 at halftime. St. John’s led, 48-14 after three quarters.
Pioneers’ coach John Andreoli said he doesn’t measure the quality of a win based on the amount of points his team scores.
“I don’t really look at the points. It’s more how were executing; how we’re going out there for every series,” said Andreoli, whose team has scored at least 33 points in each game this season and is averaging 45 points per game.
“Are we doing the things we need to do? Are we blocking downfield? Are we picking up blitzes? Are we throwing to the right guy? That’s really what we’re focusing on,” Andreoli explained. “I think our kids are doing a tremendous job in all phases of the game.”
One player performing particularly tremendously for St. John’s is quarterback Steven Bucciaglia, who threw for 388 yards – 330 in the first half – and four touchdowns in the Pioneers win over the Mountaineers. The senior also ran for a four-yard score.
“Steven has improved every week,” Andreoli said. “He’s making all the throws; the deep balls, the sideline outs, the seam routes and the short passes over the middle. He’s making all those throws with accuracy and precision, both in practices and in games.
Bucciaglia, the No. 2 passer in Central Mass., has completed 58-of-86 passes for 1,141 yards and a Central Mass.-leading 15 touchdowns. Against Wachusett he threw touchdown tosses to Eamonn Dennis (15 yards), Jay Brunelle (55 yards), Hunter Gorgas (nine yards) and Zach Pedone (three yards). Dennis also scored on an 11-yard run from scrimmage and a 75-yard kickoff return.
Bucciaglia has yet to announce where he’ll continue his education next fall.
“Steven doesn’t know where he’s going to school; he hasn’t decided yet,” Andreoli said. “I know he has a lot of options. With the way he’s progressing through the season and with the production he’s having, I think he’s going to have some great opportunities at the next level.”
With technology being what it is, high school coaches don’t have as much interaction with college coaches and the programs that are recruiting their players. Despite that, Andreoli has received some messages from coaches who want to know more about the St. John’s signal caller.
“I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries on Steven over the last six months,” Andreoli said. “But he’s doing what any kid in his position should be doing right now; playing football and enjoying himself every day, whether it be a practice day or a game day.”
Andreoli refused to put labels such as “heavily recruited” or at what level – Division 1, 2, or 3 – the coaching inquiries have come from.
“I think heavily recruited is a misused term with a lot of folks,” Andreoli said. “There are a lot of teams that watch guys during the course of their senior year and can ultimately pick where those guys are going to be on their board. I think the most important thing kids can do is focus on what they have to do every day and let those things take care of themselves.
And as for the level Bucciaglia might be playing at on Saturday for the next four years?
“I don’t like to slot kids in because if you look where Steven is now compared to where he was at the beginning of the year, he has certainly proven himself playing at the highest level in our league and he’s getting better every week,” Andreoli said. “It really depends on the school. He’s going to have a lot of options. To the schools that value a quarterback who is a very heady player – Steven is a coach on the field and he has a big arm – Steven is going to have a great opportunity. He’s going to have a great opportunity to pick where he wants to go if he continues to progress the way he is progressing.”
Doherty’s win over St. Peter-Marian was as exciting – if not more so – than the final score indicated it was.
The 3-1 Highlanders rallied from an eight-point fourth quarter deficit for the win.
Doherty got back in the game, from a score perspective, quickly, Sam Duah blocking a punt by the Guardians that teammate Kenneth Amoah picked up and ran in for a touchdown, cutting the Highlanders deficit to just two at that point, 22-20.
“We were up against it; it didn’t look good in the fourth quarter but we found a way,” Highlanders coach Sean Mulcahy said. “A year ago we probably would have packed it in. We didn’t, though, and we stayed with it, we had enough time and here we are.
“The funny thing is, Kenneth Amoah, our player that scooped and scored the blocked punt, he’s a captain and just before he made that play he was on the sidelines telling his teammates that they were going to find a way to win the game,” Mulcahy continued. “A lot of times kids say things like that, but you know they don’t mean it. Sure enough, the guy that said it is the guy that made the play.”
Doherty’s game-winning drive started off the ensuing kickoff, an onside kick recovered by Anthony Franco at the St. Peter-Marian 30-yard line. With 1:46 to play freshman quarterback Noah Callery scored the winning points by rushing in from four yards out.
St. Peter-Marian made one last stab at victory however, driving to the Highlanders’ one-yard line where, on fourth-and-goal Jon Forson stopped the Guardians from scoring to preserve the win.
“I’m really proud of the kids; it’s a real hard-working group,” Mulcahy said. “A lot of teams would have packed it in for the season after the way the way we lost our first game. They would have let that affect them but this group hasn’t.”
Mulcahy believes some of the seeds of this current three-game winning streak were planted in the moments following Doherty’s season-opening double-overtime loss to Wachusett,
“Our kids were devastated we didn’t win that first game, devastated,” Mulcahy said. “A lot of people were patting us on the back and telling us we played a great game, asking us ‘when was the last time we gave Wachusett a run for their money like that?’
“The kids were really upset about that when they came to practice on Monday; they thought we should have won the game,” Mulcahy said. “As a coaching staff it was good to see that because we looked at each other and said, ‘this group gets it.’”
Week 4 Results
St. John’s 55, Wachusett 21
Doherty 26, St. Peter-Marian 22
Burncoat 22, Sutton 0
North 40, Worcester Tech 12
Abby Kelley Foster 43, Quaboag 14
Shrewsbury 35, Leominster 0
Oxford 31, South 0