The long-held axiom that defense wins championships certainly applies to the St. John's Prep soccer team this fall. The Eagles' 3-0-2 league record had them in first place in the Catholic Conference as they recently began a crucial eight-day stretch.
"We can capture our first league title since 2007 if we take care of business," said coach Dave Crowell, whose club stood at 7-2-2 overall following a 3-0 non-league shutout of Danvers on Columbus Day. The Eagles then won out over Malden Catholic 1-0 on Saturday.
Senior captain and keeper Adam Colella recorded his sixth shutout of the season and junior Ryan McManus scored twice for St. John's in the win against the Falcons.
Colella, with a 0.54 goals against average, is the anchor of a defense that has allowed just six total goals. Among his shutout victims are defending State Champion and league rival Catholic Memorial (1-0), St. John's of Shrewsbury (1-0) and Merrimack Valley Conference power Andover (2-0).
Crowell credits three-year starter and senior captain James O'Leary, a Catholic Conference all-star selection as a junior, for his stalwart play at sweeper. Senior captain Jake Barrows of Danvers, seniors Jon Touchette, Justin Peluso and Sean Mackinson and junior Jack Gourdeau have also excelled in the back.
Juniors Deklan Robinson (seven goals, two assists), McManus (five goals) and senior Tyler Newhall (four goals) power the offensive attack. Key to the Eagles' overall success is midfield play.
"Our game plan is to possess the ball and midfielders Grant Bean, Barrows, Ryan Palmer, Drew Jenkins and Joe Centofanti have all excelled," said Crowell.
St. John's will face Boston College High School on Wednesday at home.
Football bounces back
Following a tough 17-14 loss at Brockton on Oct. 2, the Eagles (3-2) snapped a two-game losing streak on Saturday, Oct. 9 by outgunning Mount St. Joseph of Baltimore, Md., 42-35.
The Eagles trailed at one point in the second quarter, 21-0, before their ground game kicked into gear behind the superb blocking of Nate Cyr and company. Tommy Gaudet exploded for 341 yards rushing and five touchdowns on runs of 56, 76, 48, 61 and 43 yards.
Against Brockton, the Eagles positioned themselves for a dramatic win with a first-and-goal at the Boxers' three with 34 seconds to play; however, a procedure penalty, fumbled pitch and dropped pass pushed them back to the 14 and a fourth-down pass was broken up in the end zone.
The Eagles suffered a non-league loss of 24-13 to St. John's of Shrewsbury on Saturday, however, disappointing a large homecoming crowd at Cronin Stadium. The Eagles travel to Somerville on Friday, Oct. 22 (7 p.m.) before kicking off their Catholic Conference schedule against Catholic Memorial at home on Saturday, Oct. 30 (1 p.m.).
Golf finishes strong
The Eagles ran their record to 11-3 on the season with back-to-back decisions of Catholic Conference rivals Xaverian (234-263) on Oct. 14 and Malden Catholic (233-252) on Oct. 13, paced by the play of junior standouts Nick McLaughlin and Tim Cunningham. St. John's started its week with a solid 229-251 non-league win against Barnstable on Oct. 12.
The Eagles also swept two matches from in-town rival Danvers High during the course of the season.
Cross-country shares first
The Eagles earned a piece of the three-way tie at the top of the Catholic Conference by edging BC High, 27-30, on Oct. 12 to conclude the dual meet season. The Eagles' lone league loss came at Xaverian in late September.