DANVERS– St. John’s Prep football coach Brian St. Pierre hopes the lumps the Eagles took last season pay dividends in 2018.
Last year, the Prep went 5-6 and saw several key players go down with injuries. One of them was all-star receiver Wes Rockett, who tore his ACL on the third day of camp.
“We were young, and we got banged up a lot,” St. Pierre said. “That’s not what you’d call a recipe for success.
“Still,” St. Pierre said, “we were in games against a 10-1 BC High team and a 9-2 Bridgewater-Raynham team right up to the end.”
Also dinged up was starting quarterback Mike Yarin. But in his case, his injury had a silver lining in that it yielded them sophomore Matt Crowley, who St. Pierre has penciled in as the starting quarterback.
Crowley is a year older, a lot wiser, and has some experience under his belt. He also has co-captain Rockett ready and healthy for his senior season.
“Matt had a productive couple of weeks last year after he got the job (midway through the Eagles’ loss to Everett), and then he got hurt,” St. Pierre said. “It was that kind of year.”
This season, he hopes, is better.
“I’m optimistic,” St. Pierre said. “This is a good group to work with. They’re much more experienced with lots of seniors and juniors. Last year, we didn’t have many seniors.”
Cooper Smith and Kevin Dewing, one of the Eagles’ captains, will lead the way on the offensive line, charged with the task of protecting Crowley, who, says St. Pierre, “has a strong arm, and is polished fundamentally.
“He seems to understand the game, and the concepts of what we’re trying to do. This is really his time.”
The Eagles are deep in the skill positions, starting with senior running backs Aise Pream (a co-captain) and Colton Tangney.
“They’re both solid players,” said St. Pierre. They both complement each other well, he said.
“Aise (an Item All-Star last season) is shifty,” St. Pierre said. “He’s also hard to find back there.”
Tangney, a fullback, is a more straight-ahead runner. Spelling them is Trent Tully, “who has been productive when he’s gone in,” St. Pierre said. Add Pat Nistl, a junior, to the mix as well.
On defense, the Eagles will rely on burly James Taylor in the middle of the line to keep offenses honest. Others expected to see action are Tangney at inside linebacker, Nistl in the middle, Rockett at safety, Antael Rosa at safety and Pream at cornerback.
The Eagles will test themselves Friday night (7) at home against Haverhill. From there, they will face Central Catholic and travel to Everett.
That will present a new challenge for the Eagles, as new coach Theluxon Pierre will be on the Crimson Tide’s sidelines.
“They’ll still be good,” said St. Pierre.
Once the Eagles hit the Catholic Conference, they’ll be without Malden Catholic as an opponent, as the Lancers opted not to play the Prep, BC High and Xaverian this season (though they will be playing Catholic Memorial, with former Everett coach John DiBiaso going into his first season).
The schedule is always a featured attraction for St. John’s, St. Pierre said, but that’s the allure of playing there.
“There’s no question it’s a tough schedule,” he said. “Kids come here to play the best. It’s why I came here in the first place (to play) and why I came back here (to coach). We are trying very hard to be one of those good teams.”