Saturday, October 14, 2017

St. John's (Shrewsbury) Breaks the Scoreboard Against Shepherd Hill

By John McGuirk (@patsfan1313)

- Let's put to bed this notion that the top spot in Division 3 Central is up for grabs.

It is time to face facts folks. There is St. John's (Shrewsbury), and then everybody else. Period!

In a season that has been solely dominated by the Pioneers thus far, Shepherd Hill, along with its three-game winning streak, became the latest tragedy in a long line of formidable opponents expected to put up a fight.

Instead, Saturday's contest turned into a laugher early and often. The Pioneers wasted no time building a commanding 42-point in the first half lead, then proceeded to blow the Rams out 64-24 at Pioneer Field.

"I thought all three phases of our game were very good today," said St. John's head coach John Andreoli. "We are doing good, fundamental things and now we have a chance to work on those things some more over the next couple of weeks. The game we prepared for today, I felt like we responded in the exact same way that we expected to."

The separation between St. John's and the rest of the D3 Central field appears to be miles apart at this juncture. Sectional opponents, including Leominster, Shrewsbury, Wachusett, and now Shepherd Hill, have all felt the wrath of the mighty Pioneers this season. St. John's also made short work of Division 3 West favorite Springfield Central earlier this year, leaving many to wonder if anyone can stop the Pioneers before the state championship game at Gillette Stadium.

The Rams, meanwhile, entered this contest with thoughts of giving the Pioneers a run for their money. Instead, they were embarrassed and over-matched by a superior, more-talented foe. All that remains on St. John's schedule before the playoffs begin are 1-5 Algonquin and 5-1 Marlborough. The latter being a Mid-Wach B club that could prove to be a worthy adversary.

Against Shepherd Hill, St. John's racked up 524 yards of offense. That came without feature running back Peter Oliver, who sustained a broken leg a week ago versus Wachusett. The Rams, who were short-handed at running back as well, missing both Zach Magdis and Ben Carpenter, finished with 282 yards of total offense.

St. John's (6-0) tallied points on all eight of its first half possessions to make a mockery out of this one. Senior quarterback Steven Bucciaglia, who was pulled midway through the third quarter, was instrumental, as he completed 18 of 22 passes for 303 yards, 5 TDs and 0 INTs.

"We are definitely confident," Bucciaglia said. "But we never want to get too high. Our offensive line has been playing great in front of me, led by Neal Nasuti, Federico Ernst, Ian Schade, Liam Daly and Andy Stolberg. I give them all the credit in the world. Because of them, they let our offense do what we do."

Even without Oliver, the Pioneers still had plenty left in the cupboard. Junior Colin Deso gained 46 yards, finding the end zone twice via a run and a pass completion. Sophomore Eamonn Dennis scored on a 49-yard scamper halfway through the opening quarter, and Sean Fallon, another sophomore, rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown.

Once Shepherd Hill (4-2, 2-1 Mid-Wach A) fell behind big, its patented Double Wing offense proved useless. That type of formation is used primarily to consume yardage and eat time off the clock. But it becomes non-productive after you have fallen behind convincingly and need to make up points. As is their forte, the Rams barely threw the ball despite trailing so significantly. Quarterback Mick Sullivan was just 2 of 6 passing for 57 yards. The Rams' running game was equally ineffective for the most part as well, unable to sustain consistent drives.

"They go no-huddle which is a little different in regards to what you usually see in the Double Wing," said Andreoli. "It is a ball-controlled offense that wants to run the clock. I just felt we did a really good job stopping them today."

A 29-yard scoring pass from Bucciaglia to Zach Pedone was followed up soon after by Dennis' 49-yard gash up the middle which had St. John's in front 14-0. A number of times, the Rams found themselves facing 4th-and-short situations. Opting to go for it, they were constantly being denied by a swarming Pioneer defense. That, in turn, gave the Pioneers offense excellent starting field position.

Late in the opening quarter, a fumble by Shepherd Hill running back John Foley, that was recovered by Andries Pennings, put St. John's on the Rams' 34. Having reached the 4, Deso took the hand-off and blasted up the middle for the score to make it 21-0. Moments later, following another 4-and-out by Shepherd Hill, Deso caught a 29 yard pass from Bucciaglia and sprinted into the end zone, upping the advantage to 27 points.

Following another Rams' stalled drive on fourth down, St. John's perfected a well-executed 50-yard march that was capped off by Hunter Gorgas' 9-yard touchdown completion in the back of the end zone just moments into the second quarter.

It only took two minutes for the Pioneers to add to their total. Needing just one play, senior receiver Josh Shrestha, on a crossing route, took a pass from Bucciaglia in stride and motored his way 49 yards for the score to make it a 40-0 game with still over eight minutes remaining before the half.

"Our coaches here do a great job in letting me know that with different looks I can do different things," Bucciaglia said. "I feel that I am ready for a lot of different situations and that's a credit to all of our coaches."

The Rams did show a bit of life on the subsequent possession as they engineered a 58-yard drive finished off by Nate Cooper's 1-yard scoring plunge.

But all that did was fire up the Pioneers even more. A few minutes following the touchdown, Bucciaglia hit Coleman Drugotch for a 19-yard gain to set up a Fallon 25-yard jaunt down the right sideline and a 47-8 advantage. Just before the half, St. John's would regain possession and drive to the Shepherd Hill 25. That allowed kicker Nick Palermo to boot 35-yard field goal with no time remaining to send the Pioneers into the break with a commanding 50-8 lead.

For the most part, the second half proved to be just a matter of procedure for St. John's. With this tilt firmly planted in their back pocket, it was now a point of the Pioneers simply going through the motions. A Cooper touchdown reception on Shepherd Hill's initial drive of the final half was soon followed by Shea Gallo-Kolegue 32-yard touchdown reception for the Pioneers.

Before the third quarter came to a finish, another Rams fumble was recovered by St. John's Matthew Corinna at the Shepherd Hill 25. Just two plays in, Gallo-Kolegue, now playing quarterback, broke free for a 21-yard scoring run to push the deficit out to 64-16. Playing mostly against the Pioneers' second unit in the waning stages, the Rams notched their final touchdown of the long afternoon midway through the fourth quarter, on Kobe Jean-Guillaume's 2-yard carry to cap an 82-yard march.

The Pioneers will look to keep rolling next Saturday at home against Algonquin, while Shepherd Hill will look to bounce back next Friday at home against Leominster.

No comments :