Xaverian 20, St. John's (S) 16

Xaverian holds off Pioneers

Hawks’ victory snaps two-game losing skid

By John McGuirk
Globe Correspondent / October 31, 2010

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SHREWSBURY — Where other teams have tried and failed, Xaverian succeeded.

The Hawks, coming off back-to-back losses, were in desperate need of a victory. However, facing a powerful and unbeaten St. John’s program on the road, the likelihood of turning their season around was hardly in their favor.

But Xaverian (6-2) did just that by putting forth a solid defensive effort yesterday as it kept the Pioneers scoreless in the second half to come away with a hard-fought 20-16 win at gusty Pioneer Field.

“We’ve been struggling the last couple of weeks and we really needed to have a great team effort today,’’ said Hawks coach Charlie Stevenson. “It was good that we were able to contain them as well as we did. I was happy that we were able to contain them to just 16 points.’’

The Pioneers (7-1) entered the game with a 41 points-per-game average while the defense was giving up a mere 8.4 points. Following a decent first half, that offense disappeared as Xaverian’s bend-but-don’t-break defense took away the long pass and held its own against the run.

Pioneer senior quarterback Dan Light, who came in having passed for 1,315 yards and 19 touchdowns with 530 yards rushing and 10 scores, had trouble solving the Hawks’ defense. He finished the afternoon going 13 of 29 for 142 yards, with one touchdown but two interceptions. Wide receiver Richard Rodgers had eight catches for 101 yards and one score.

In fact, Hawks’ signal-caller Chris Calvanese, a junior, out-dueled Light as he completed 12 of 21 passes for 146 yards and a pair of scores.

St. John’s led at the break, 16-13, and looked to add to that lead early in the third after Rodgers recovered a Hunter Taute fumble at the Pioneer 20. But just three plays into the possession, Nick McDaniels intercepted a deflected pass, returning it 20 yards to give Xaverian the ball on the St. John’s 10.

Needing just two plays, senior running back Joe Colton (102 yards on 19 carries) sprinted into the end zone from the 5 to put the Hawks ahead by 4 with 8:30 left in the third quarter.

Xaverian’s defense took over from there. The Pioneers were futile in moving the football as their final four possessions resulted in two failed fourth-down attempts and two punts.

“Our kids played hard and we played a very good team,’’ said St. John’s coach John Andreoli. “We’ve played some great teams all year long but have taken the same approach every game and that’s not going to change. You want to play the best teams and compete with them and that’s what our kids did today.’’

The Hawks wasted little time getting on the board. On their first drive they marched 65 yards to set up a Mike Warren 9-yard scoring pass from Calvanese. St. John’s answered back with a 27-yard field goal off the foot of Rodgers. On Xaverian’s ensuing possession, Matt Santoro stepped in front of a Calvanese pass and returned it 53 yards. That would lead to a 27-yard scoring hookup from Light to Rodgers to put the Pioneers ahead, 9-7. A Light 1-yard dive with 4:09 remaining before halftime pushed the St. John’s advantage to 16-7.

But Xaverian continued to battle. A couple of key receptions from senior Mike Muir pushed the Hawks to the St. John’s 2-yard line. With 30 seconds left, Calvanese hit Muir on an out pass in the left corner of the end zone to cut the deficit to 3 points entering the half.