DANVERS — Sometimes, a little execution in situational football can mean everything.
With that, plus a dominant effort on the ground from its two-headed monster at running back, St. John’s Prep earned a 30-28 win over Central Catholic on Saturday at Glatz Field.
The sequence in question came at the end of the first half. Central (0-2) held a 14-13 lead, but the Prep (2-0) was driving. The Eagles moved out in front when Prep quarterback Deacon Robillard hit running back Dylan Aliberti for a 30-yard touchdown over the middle.
The Eagles were not done. Defensive back Grayson Ambrosh made a nice interception and run back to put the ball at the Central 15. Kicker Langdon Laws then drilled a 32-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half. That gave Prep a 23-14 lead at the break.
“It’s the difference in the game. We won by two, that field goal (was the difference),” Prep coach Brian St. Pierre said. “We shouldn’t have put ourselves in that situation. Left a couple plays on offense. Defensively, we’re not where we need to be. That’s just period, point blank.”
It was the running back duo who sealed it. Aliberti — although he caught two touchdown passes — rushed for 159 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, and teammate Cam LaGrassa had 117 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
“Yeah, right now, that’s what we are,” St. Pierre said. “We always want to be physical. We pride ourselves on being physical. That’s how you beat them, be more physical than them. But we have a lot to work on.”
“We react to what we’re given,” Aliberti said. “Normally we draw up some stuff, during halftime we’ll figure out what we’ve got to do for the second half. So, yeah, second half is definitely better because we know what we’re doing.”
The whole game was a back-and-forth affair. After Aliberti’s 18-yard touchdown catch from Robillard on the game’s first drive, Prep scored again on a LaGrassa 7-yard run with 1:47 left in the quarter to make it 13-0.
But there was no blowout coming, as Central’s Mason Bachry broke loose for a 58-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 13-7.
Jaxon Pereira, who filled in for injured starter Blake Hebert, ran in a 2-yard touchdown with 5:51 left in the half, as Central grabbed a 14-13 lead.
Thanks to that end of the half sequence for Prep, the Eagles held a 23-14 edge at the break.
Pereira helped get Central back in it with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jack Steen, but Prep’s ground assault was too strong. The Eagles went on a 13-play, 70-yard drive, which culminated in Aliberti’s 4-yard touchdown run with 5:01 to play as Prep took a 30-21 lead.
Although Pereira (150 yards passing, 31 yards rushing) scored on a 5-yard rush with 1:57 to play, it was too little, too late.