Saturday, September 16, 2017

St. John's (Shrewsbury) Runs Away from Springfield Central

By John McGuirk (@patsfan1313)

- The best coaches often avoid viewing their team's performances with rose colored glasses.

Case in point. John Andreoli, the 13-year head coach of St. John's (Shrewsbury) could have walked off of Pioneer Field singing the praises of his team's total dismantling of Springfield Central on Saturday afternoon. But Andreoli is not built that way. He is a man who demands perfection in all three phases of the game.

In spite St. John's compiling 677 yards of offense during its 62-39 beat down of the Golden Eagles, Andreoli was quick to point out his concerns regarding complacency of his defense during the second half.

Central (0-2) was held to a mere 40 yards in the first half and trailed 41-6. But in the second half, the Golden Eagles began to catch fire while the Pioneers let their defensive guard down. Central rolled up 364 yards over the final 30 minutes and made this one a bit more interesting then it probably should have been.

"Central is better then the scores they've had this week and last week," said Andreoli, his team improving to 2-0. "Offensively I think we were consistent the whole game. But defensively, we learned a lesson today. They come out and score four touchdowns on us in the second half. We can't have that happen. We need to play a complete game for four quarters. We have to learn as a staff and a team that, in order to be a championship team, you've gotta play an entire 44 minutes, especially against the schedule we've got."

In this rematch of the 2013 Division 2 state semifinal won by the Pioneers, the very first play from scrimmage by St. John's would set the tone. Senior quarterback Steven Bucciaglia connected with running back Peter Oliver on a screen pass that resulted in a 83-yard scoring catch and run by the senior. Oliver, who is being recruited by Harvard and Princeton, had his best day in a St. John's uniform. Along with his touchdown reception, Oliver also rushed for 204 yards and three more scores of 7, 39 and 44 yards respectively. Bucciaglia, a 6-foot-1, 210 lb. senior, managed the offense well, completing 13 of 21 passes for 213 yards in just three quarters of work.

"There was a lot of good blocking up front today," Oliver said. "Our offensive line really picked it up. That was a huge part of this win. It was very important to build a halftime lead like we did, but I wish we could have kept our momentum going in the second half. We kind of mentally lost it, so that is something we need to work on. It is something we need to take upon ourselves and never be complacent. We need to continue to keep it going for the entire game."

Losing 55-13 a week ago to Bishop Sullivan Catholic, the Golden Eagles appeared to take that loss with them walking into this contest. The defense did a poor job tackling, missed reads and basically allowed the Pioneers to do whatever they wanted in the opening half, as they chalked up 492 yards during that span.

"St. John's is a very good team," said Central head coach Valdamar Brower. "They have a lot of talented seniors and underclassmen and are physical. They put head on hat all throughout today. We are still a young team that is learning. Today we missed some things defensively but I feel we will get better moving forward. We can take some positives out of the second half. We have some very good talent here that will only get better, so we will see what happens."

Oliver's second touchdown, coming at 6:41 of the first quarter, had St. John's in front 14-0. Following a Central punt on its next possession, the Pioneers would increase their total to 21 points after sophomore back Eamonn Dennis took a pitch from Bucciaglia and bolted 50 yards for the score. Dennis finished with 93 yards, two rushing TDs and also returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score.

With the Golden Eagles offense sputtering, St. John's continued to roll. Oliver's second rushing score pushed the Pioneers out to 28-0. But on the ensuing kickoff, Central's Chauncey Cogell returned it 92 yards to get the Golden Eagles on the board with 1:38 still remaining in the opening quarter. But back came the Pioneers on their next possession. Driving 80 yards on eight plays, Oliver finished it off with his 44 yard scamper.

"Peter had a little bit of the bug, so we had to watch him in terms of the number of carries he got in this heat," said Andreoli. "What he does on the field on Saturdays or Fridays is indicative in how he practices. He finishes every run and is a powerful kid with speed. He knows his assignments and does a great job. It certainly showed today. He made a lot of yards after contact today and ran well in the open field."

Following another Golden Eagles punt, St. John's moved down field once again highlighted by Dennis' 7 yard rush into the end zone with 5:41 left before halftime to increase St. John's margin to 35 points. The score was set up by a 17 yard run by Dan Byers (75 yards) and a Zach Pedone 28 yard catch. With time ticking down before the half, the Pioneers had an opportunity to add to its total but their drive would stall on the Golden Eagles' 23.

Coming out to start the third, Central had a go for broke attitude and it seemed to work. A young team that is still trying to find an identity, the Golden Eagles finally started to generate some positive yardage. They began by marching 75 yards capped off by a Myles Bradley 10 yard scoring reception from Aaron-Moses Williams (17 of 35 for 321 yards). But on the ensuing kickoff, the Pioneers drove 64 yards finished off by tight end Hunter Gorgas grabbing Bucciaglia's 7 yard pass in the back corner of the end zone to make it 48-13.

The arcade game-like scoring continued on Central's next possession. A Williams 38 yard pass to Bradley set up Williams' 6 yards jaunt into the end zone, cutting the deficit to 48-20 with 5:35 to go in the third as the Pioneers defense continue to wilt a bit in the 80-plus degree heat.

But the hole Central dug for itself in the opening half was too steep to climb out of. Although the Golden Eagles' offense had found new life, the defense continued to falter. A Bucciaglia 2 yard dive across the goal line, completing a 73 yard march, had St. John's up 55-20. Just before the quarter came to an end, the Golden Eagles generated another sustained drive that was answered by a 1 yard plow into the end zone from Bradley to begin the fourth.

Dennis' ensuing kickoff return padded the Pioneers advantage back to 35 before Central mounted another long drive that was sealed on aJordan Lowery 1 yard plunge with 8:33 left to be played. The Golden Eagles would score again in the closing minute when Williams found Cqari Bacote all alone in the back of the end zone for a 30 yard reception.

"We've played Central twice now and they are a very good program," Andreoli said. "They are a team that is challenging themselves right now. I told our kids all this week that they lined up against one of the top 65 teams in the country last week and they aren't afraid to play anybody. That team is well-coached and they have tough kids. It was certainly evident in the second half in the way they moved the ball on us."

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