Saturday, November 9, 2013

Postgame Blog: St. John's Too Much for Marlboro

St. John's QB Drew Smiley (right) and RB Shane Combs (left) form the most feared backfield in Central Mass... But football isn't even the top sport for either of them.

By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

So much for this being the exciting semifinal in D2 Central.

The Pioneers of St. John's were scary efficient in their 56-20 thrashing of visiting Marlboro, and quarterback Drew Smiley had one of the finer performances of his stellar career, throwing for 3 scores and adding another two on the ground.

On the day, Smiley was 12/14 passing for 205 yards, while rushing four times for 70 yards. Yeah, he was pretty darn good.

An Opportunistic D

The Pioneer defense played one of its best games as well, with linebackers Patrick Ryan and Anthony Moroski each picking off throws from Panther QB John Rumney. While St. John's was able to build a 42-14 lead, Marlboro threatened to "sorta" make a game of it just before intermission. Rumney led the Panthers to a first and goal on the Pioneer one yard line, but senior defensive end Jeff DeMango tackled him in the backfield for a four-yard loss. Then, great coverage on back-to-back plays led to a pair of incompletions that ended the half.

Two-Sport Stars in the Backfield

Most people around Central Mass knew about Smiley coming into the year. While the Pioneer QB set records on the football field, it was his lacrosse ability that garnered Division 1 college interest. Smiley will play for Navy next year, and he will enter the spring as one of the top senior lacrosse players in the state.

But, nobody in the region knew about junior running back Shane Combs, a transfer from St. Louis. While Combs' 100 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, plus 23 yards and another score receiving, prove he's a capable football player, it's his baseball ability that had college scouts excited.

Two Sundays ago, Combs committed to play baseball for the University of Notre Dame. Hear that CMass? This may be the best backfield in the region, and football isn't even the best sport for either of these guys. A pretty scary thought.

Leominster Looming

We all knew this was coming, or maybe we were just hoping. Either way, St. John's and Leominster will go round two Friday at Leominster's Doyle Field to determine the D2 Central champion.

It's the most anticipated game in the region since… St. John's visited Leominster to open the season. The Blue Devils won that game 33-22, and have rolled up everybody they have faced since. St. John's has regained its form on offense since that first night in Leominster, and the Pioneer defense has improved as well.

As Leominster coach Dave Palazzi said just before his team's first game against St. John's, "it's gonna be a war."

The winner will take on the D2 West champion (likely favorite Springfield Central) and then whichever team emerges from a competitive D2 field in North and South. Whoever wins Division 2 will be, in my opinion, the top team in the state.

No disrespect to D1 powers like Everett and Xaverian, but with squads like Mansfield, Barnstable, Springfield Central, Leominster and St. John's all peaking, I have to believe the team that emerges from that field is No. 1.

But hey, we'll see. Hang on to your hats folks, the #RoadToGillette is gonna be a fun one.

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