St. John’s Prep wins battle of trenches, defeats Catholic Memorial

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DANVERS — St. John’s Prep coach Brian St. Pierre said that when you play Catholic Memorial, you find out just how good you are in the trenches.

On Saturday, St. Pierre had to like the answer he received on that.

St. John’s Prep ran the ball well and stopped the run in a 19-8 victory over Catholic Memorial in a steady downpour.

This was the first loss by the Knights (4-2) to a Massachusetts team since a defeat to the Prep (7-0) in the 2019 D1 state title game at Gillette.

“I thought our lines, both sides of the ball, dominated the game,” St. Pierre said. “Against that group, against the size they have, the injuries. We started a freshman right guard today: Cayden Blanchette. He just turned 14 this summer, I think. Proud of our guys, that’s all I can say. Our lines won the day. I believe, the coaching staff, we believe in the trenches and winning up front … I thought we won the trenches on both sides.”

It was an accurate assessment. The Prep rushed for 306 yards. The leading ground gainers were running back Cam LaGrassa, who had 254 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, and Wildcat quarterback Jimmy Nardone, who rushed for 41 yards.

All this while Prep lost top back Dylan Aliberti to a leg injury in the first quarter.

Catholic Memorial was limited to less than 50 yards rushing, and never got anything consistent going on offense, although quarterback Peter Bourque passed for 202 yards, most of which came in the second half with the Knights playing from behind.

“This game proves a lot,” LaGrassa said. “We were working really hard all week throughout practice. A lot of people think that we weren’t really capable of doing what we did, so it was to build on that reputation.”

After a scoreless first half, Prep took over in the third quarter. LaGrassa rushed for a 43-yard gain to start, which helped set up Deacon Robillard’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Merrick Barlow on a ball that looked tipped. Nardone added the two-point rush on the conversion, and Prep led, 8-0, with 8:25 to go in the third.

CM punted on its next possession, and Prep faced a third and 7 from its own 25-yard line. LaGrassa took the handoff, and went right up the middle untouched for a 75-yard touchdown. Nardone ran it in again and the Prep held a 16-0 lead with 4:55 left in the quarter.

The Knights battled back, as Bourque hit Isaiah Faublas for an 80-yard touchdown over the middle. Another Bourque pass, this time to Michael Hegarty, earned the two points, and CM trailed just 16-8.

CM’s DJ Overall fell on a Prep fumble early in the fourth quarter, but near midfield, the Knights turned it over on downs.

The Eagles sealed it with a 21-yard field goal from Langdon Laws to complete the scoring with less than two minutes to go.

“When you get turnovers in a game like this, we didn’t have any,” CM coach John DiBiaso said. “They had four. We didn’t take advantage. We did not take advantage of the opportunities. But, hey, they have a great team. They played hard. Brian’s a very good coach. They’re well prepared. We had trouble stopping their run.”

Catholic Memorial runner Lasean Sharp, left, is leveled by St. John’s Prep’s John Droggitis during a football clash of state powers in Danvers. (Staff Photo/Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald)

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