BOSTON — Don’t try to sell St. John’s Prep’s football players that Wednesday evening’s loss to Xaverian carries with it a silver lining of sorts.
The Eagles aren’t buying it.
It would’ve been bad enough had the Eagles merely lost. It would’ve been worse had they just pulled a no-show and kept its players healthy for next Saturday’s Super Bowl by not playing them.
Worst of all, though, was that the Eagles really wanted this game as much as they wanted any.
“This is just as big for us as the Super Bowl,” coach Brian St. Pierre said following the Eagles’ 14-12 loss to the Hawks at Fenway Park. “Winning this game was important to us.”
For one thing, it meant the Catholic Conference championship. Such accomplishments may not mean as much in the grand scheme of playoff-oriented football. But to these old war horses, who have been fierce league rivals since the first time they played in 1968, that league title means as much as any state championship.
“We weren’t going to rest anyone for the Super Bowl,” said St. Pierre. “This was for the Catholic Conference championship.”
When someone asked St. Pierre whether there was anything to be taken from this game — any lessons that might be learned in preparation for next Saturday’s Division 1 state championship game against Catholic Memorial — St. Pierre replied “no” before the man could complete the question.
“Nothing,” he said. “We didn’t play well. We didn’t do anything well. They (Xaverian) didn’t stop us all night. We went up and down the field and the only ones who stopped us was us.”
It wasn’t as if the Eagles were looking past anyone. Senior Wes Rockett has never been on a team that defeated Xaverian and he — and his fellow seniors — were more than ready.
“We said all we that we had to put an end to this,” said Rockett, who, despite the fact the Eagles didn’t play their best game, might have had his.
“I know we didn’t play well as a whole,” St. Pierre said, “but No. 5 (Rockett) played very well. He’s a competitor.”
Rockett picked off one pass that, had it connected, might have been for a long gain); and he returned a punt for the Eagles’ first TD that made the score 14-6.
All in all, though, it wasn’t The Prep’s night. Things were off from the very start.
St. John’s looked poised to score a touchdown on its first possession, zipping down the field on its first series before stalling in Xaverian territory. After stopped the Hawks on a three-and-out, the Eagles were moving upfield again when they fumbled. That turnover resulted in Xaverian’s opening touchdown.
When St. John’s looked as if it might be able to tie the score, the Eagles fumbled again on the Xaverian 25.
“That was a second-effort play,” said St. Pierre. “You can’t fault him. He was fighting fo extra yardage.”
Even when St. John’s scored, untimely mistakes killed the Eagles. A bad snap on the PAT kept the score at 14-6 and when, on its next touchdown in the third quarter, the Eagles had to go for two, quarterback Matthew Crowley threw the ball wide.
“It was a frustrating game,” said St. Pierre. “It might be the most frustrating game I’ve ever coached.”
With all that, St. John’s had a chance to win, late in the fourth quarter, when — again — the Eagles stalled. On a fourth-and-five, they couldn’t connect on a sideline pass and all Xaverian had to do was run out the clock.
While it’s true that the Eagles have a chance to assuage this defeat by beating CM next Saturday at Gillette Stadium, both St. Pierre and Rockett acknowledge this one will be tough to overcome.
“I’m not feeling very good right now,” Rockett said. “We really wanted this one. This will stay with me … forever, I think.”
So now, it’s onto Cincinnati. Only St. Pierre isn’t sure, yet, how that’ll come about.
“We’ve been good at turning the page,” he said. “I guess all we can do is recover, look at film, have some good practices and get ready to play.
“It’ll be a challenge,” he said. “But we’ve faced other challenges this season and overcome them. We’ll have to do it one more time.”