Saturday, November 18, 2017

St. John's (Shrewsbury) Tops Springfield Central in Shootout for Trip to Gillette

By Matt Feld (@mattyfeld612)

Worcester, Mass. - St. John’s (Shrewsbury) quarterback Steve Bucciaglia soaked it in for a while. Who could blame him, he had just led his team to Gillette Stadium.

On Saturday afternoon, Bucciaglia was the fulcrum of an explosive Pioneer offense, completing 23-of-28 passes for 230 yards and 3 touchdowns as St. John’s Shrewsbury defeated Springfield Central, 52-33, at Foley Stadium.

With the win, St. John’s (11-0) advances to the Div. 3 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium versus North Attleboro.

Complementing Bucciaglia were a slew of lethal St. John’s halfbacks, who proved to be dangerous both in the passing game and on the ground.

Colin Deso, Eamonn Dennis, and Dylan Byers combined for 286 yards on the ground and three scores.

In all, the Pioneers’ finished the state semifinal with 580 yards of offense.

“This is a dream for a high school player,” said Bucciaglia.” We have all been thinking about this a long time. Making it to Gillette, it’s just a dream come true.”

Springfield Central was not without its own high-powered offense. The Golden Eagles tallied 508 total yards behind 14 receptions and 158 yards receiving from Myles Bradley.

Unfortunately for Central, it was not enough as Bucciaglia picked the Golden Eagles apart while the Pioneers’ defense forced a pair of turnovers.

Trailing 32-14 with less than 30 seconds to go in the first half, Springfield Central gained some unlikely momentum.

After quarterback Anomoso Williams was sacked, the Golden Eagles seemed comfortable heading into halftime trailing by 18. With 0.1 seconds left on the clock, however, Central called timeout getting one last shot from their own 40-yard line.

The decision paid off as Williams tossed a screen pass to Andre Ellisoon who corralled, beat a trio of St. John’s defenders and took off for a miraculous 60-yard score to pull Springfield within 32-21 at the intermission.

But Bucciaglia and company came out on fire to begin the second half.

Beginning on his own 40-yard line, Bucciaglia completed a pair of passes to Zach Pedone before a defensive pass interference brought the Pioneers down to the Golden Eagles’ 30-yard line.

One play later, Byers took the inside handoff and cut through the Golden Eagles’ front seven and into the end zone for a 30 yard score to put St. John’s up 38-21.

Springfield Central responded by working inside the Pioneers’ 30 yard line but St. John’s linebacker Liam Doran stepped in front of a Williams pass for an interception.

Instantly, Bucciaglia put the game out of reach as the senior hooked up with Shrestha for a pair of completions around a Mark Cheffers 15 yard pickup. Moments later, Sean Fallon plunged into the end zone for a 12 yard touchdown that gave the Pioneers an insurmountable 45-21 lead.

“We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit defensively in the first half when it came to penalties,” said St. John’s (Shrewsbur)y head coach John Andreoli. “Two 15-yard penalties that put us in bad field position. I think in the second half though we got ahold of our emotions and came back against some adversity.”

St. John’s scored on their first two drives of the game. On their opening series, Dennis took the pitch, cut out left and took off for a 32 yards score. After Springfield Central turned it over on downs, the Pioneers’ turned to their passing game as Bucciaglia fired a 33-yard strike to Strestha to give St. John’s a 13-0 lead.

The Golden Eagles quickly answered as Williams found Chauncey Cogell for a 37-yard score to cut the Pioneers lead to 13-7.

Every time Springfield Central looked like they were on the verge of evening the contest up the Pioneers had an answer.

St. John’s responded to Springfield’s score by going 81 yards, highlighted by a 41-yard completion from Bucciaglia to Strestha and capped off by a Deso 11-yard run to go up 19-7.

“We get better every week,” said Bucciaglia. “I have a bunch of weapons and our offensive line does a great job giving me time and they are great run blockers as well. I just have an embarrassment of riches.”

The Pioneers will now turn their attention to Saint Peter-Marian on Thanksgiving before taking on the Red Rocketeers at Gillette.

There is no question that North Attleboro has been on fire since the start of the season. The Red Rocketeers will enter the Super Bowl as winners of 10 straight, and include the likes of star quarterback Chad Peterson and Brendan McHugh.

From the looks of it right now though, there seems to be no slowing this St. John’s offense down.

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