Prep can’t solve Shrewsbury
DANVERS — All week long St. John’s (Shrewsbury) had heard more than it wanted about Tyler Coppola, the fleet-footed St. John’s Prep running back who gained 341 yards and scored five touchdowns a week ago against Mount St. Joseph’s of Maryland.
Although Coppola gained 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Pioneers, Shrewsbury was able to limit the Eagles’ offense as a whole to rally for a 24-13 nonleague victory yesterday at Cronin Memorial Stadium.
St. John’s Prep (3-3) gave the Pioneers fits throughout the first half as it built a 13-9 lead. However, Shrewsbury controlled the final 22 minutes to improve to 6-0.
“We came in here knowing it was going to be a barn-burner,’’ said Pioneers coach John Andreoli. “We needed to continue to have confidence in our preparation and confidence in what we’ve done this week and in the past weeks. We knew [Prep] would move the ball because they’re physical and have good athletes. We needed to keep our composure and stick to our game plan and the kids did that today.’’
The Eagles, after falling behind, 6-0, on a 49-yard pass from Dan Light to wide receiver Richard Rodgers, took control of the second quarter by running the ball through the inside zone. Coppola put Prep ahead, 7-6, on an 18-yard jaunt at 9:06 of the frame. After Shrewsbury was forced to punt on the ensuing possession, Coppola rumbled 56 yards up the middle on the Eagles’ first play of the drive to make it a 13-6 contest. A 25-yard field goal by Rodgers closed the Shrewsbury gap to 13-9 heading into the intermission.
St. John’s Prep opened the second half by turning the ball over to Shrewsbury on a fumble by Tommy Gaudet. The Pioneers took advantage of the miscue by moving the ball downfield to set up a 36-yard field goal by Rodgers to bring Shrewsbury to within a point.
Midway through the third quarter it was Rodgers again with a 38-yard punt return that set the stage for Light to bust into the end zone from 2 yards out to give the Pioneers an 18-13 lead.
Shrewsbury closed out the scoring in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run by John Vassar for the final margin.
“St. John’s is a very good football team with some very good players,’’ St. John’s Prep coach Jim O’Leary said. “You need to have a great team effort and in the first half I thought we did. That team is undefeated and we knew they weren’t nervous [at the half]. But if we’re a couple of touchdowns up then maybe they’re scratching their heads a little bit. What we did in the first half we just didn’t do in the second half. We didn’t execute well enough and you need to execute against a team like that.’’