LOWELL — The hand-crafted digits “2-0-0” flopped a bit in the postgame drizzle, but there was no denying the milestone reached on Tuesday night by Groveland’s Jim O’Leary.
The St. John’s Prep football coach moved to 200-105-2 all-time at the Prep with the well-deserved Eastern Mass. Division 1 semifinal win over Andover here last night.
“I think 201 is more important than 200 at this point,” said O’Leary, who shoots for that magic number in the Eastern Mass. Division 1 championship against Brockton, Saturday at 1 p.m. “Seriously, I’m happy to have it because I love this group of kids. They’ve been together three years and they’ve worked so hard for it.”
O’Leary took over at the Prep in 1984. He will be shooting for his second Super Bowl championship in his tenure. The coach’s other title team went 11-0 in 1997, featuring a pair of future NFLers in QB Brian St. Pierre, who now lives in Georgetown, and Salem’s Wayne Lucier, who started 20 games on the offensive line for the New York Giants in 2003-04.
Also leading that star-studded group was a pair of future pro baseballers in Salem’s Jeff Mackor and halfback Brian Lentz.
Wrestling can wait
The giant smile on the face of Prep nose guard Corey Jean-Jacques told it all. Wrestling season is just going to have to wait.
“I wasn’t playing sophomore year when they went to the playoffs two years ago. This feels good to win here and move on, being a part of it,” said Jean-Jacques, of Haverhill.
No worries, though, for those of you mat mavens out there. Jean-Jacques will be back on the mat with a New England title in his sights sooner than you know it.
“I’ll get right back on the wrestling mat, very soon,” he promised. “And I’ll be just fine.”
Game ball to Heikkinen
My game ball on the Andover side goes to receiver Will Heikkinen, who was involved in an absolutely crucial play late in the third quarter.
Down 7-0, Andover was moving but facing a 3rd-and-9 from the Prep 34. Heikkinen pulled in a C.J. Scarpa pass and accelerated down the sideline for 21 yards and a first.
But at the end of the play, he met two Prep defenders. Heikkinen kept straining for every inch, like a champion, but a third Prep defender, Alex Moore, swooped in to rip the ball free.
Was Heikkinen’s forward progress stopped? Absolutely.
Was he down before the ball came loose? From across the field, it sure looked like it.
But the officials ruled a fumble, and the Prep took over, then went for and got the kill with Jon Thomas scoring two more times.
Heikkinen left it all on the field. He deserved a better fate, and maybe even a better call.
Odds and ends
Freshman Ian Kessel of Haverhill came in to finish the job in the backfield as Jon Thomas’ backup. A good-looking young runner, Kessel carried four times for 23 yards. ...
Prep Coach Jim O’Leary on Andover:
“Andover is well coached. We’ve seen a lot of teams run that (spread) offense, but not like them, and the quarterback (Scarpa) is the key. (Coach E.J. Perry) is doing everything right. With the new playoff system, we’re going to see them more often, and I’m looking forward to that.”
O’Leary on Thomas’ best play in a litany of huge ones last night: “How was that hit on the fourth down play (stopping C.J. Scarpa in an open-field one-on-one at the marker)?”