LAWRENCE — Johnny Thomas may have loaded, cocked and aimed the weapon.
But Michael Geaslen fired the perfect kill shot on Central Catholic, ending the home team’s night with a perfect 35-yard TD strike to Logan Mahoney in a huge Division 1 showdown here before about 2,000 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“Coach was yelling at me to throw to the other side where we had (three receivers), but my receiver on the left, Logan Mahoney, had 1-on-1 with no safety help,” said Geaslen, the St. John’s Prep quarterback. “He gave me the signal and made a great move up the field. I just hit him.”
In stride, perfectly to put the game away at 33-21 with 6:11 left in the fourth quarter as the No. 4 St. John’s went on to ice the No. 9 Raiders 40-21.
For Andover’s Geaslen, it was a night of getting the job done when he had to as Central stacked the box with nine in a bid to slow Thomas.
“It’s on me, but there really was no pressure,” said Geaslen, who was 6 of 10 for 97 yards and added a TD run. “We spread it out, hoping to make room for Johnny but teams are going to stack the line no matter who we play. We just have to make plays.”
The Maryland-bound “Johnny Rockets” lived up to the pre-game hype and then some. On the ground, he riddled the Raiders with 232 yards on 30 carries. But it was his final barrage — a 106-yard interception return on which coach Jim O’Leary noted, “I’ve never seen a return like that in my life,” — that left jaws dropping all over the joint with 3:03 remaining.
“In a word, you could call that return overpowering,” said Geaslen. “But it was so much more. He was running away from them, and it looked like there guys were trying to run away from him, like they didn’t want to tackle him.”
While the Prep owned the second half, 19-0, Central could point to its biggest mistake of the night, a fumble inside the Prep 10 with the score tied at 21 apiece for its undoing.
That and a night full of dropped passes that probably cost Raider QB Mike Milano (15-of-28, 217 yards) a monster night.
“We’re tied going in the second half, and we stub our toes with a turnover right there, and it kind of killed our momentum,” said Raider coach Chuck Adamopoulos. “It was a very frustrating game, a winnable game and I’m just not happy the way we played in the second half. I just don’t like the way we finished the game.”
Adamopoulos and the Raider faithful had to love how his team slugged it out with the Goliath Prep over the first two quarters.
Central showed efficiency on the opening possession, moving 80 yards in 7 plays and grabbing a 7-0 lead on D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie’s 3-yard dive.
The Raiders then displayed overwhelming grit, rebounding from deficits of 14-7 and 21-14 to knot the score at the break.
DD-M (11 carries, 67 yards) delivered his second TD, banging in from the 6, midway through the second, and the junior Milano earned the tough-guy award for the night, scrambling in from the 6 and absorbing a face-to-face bone-cruncher with Thomas that sent the Raiders’ helmet flying.
With the loss, the Raiders fall to 2-1 as they approach their four-game sprint through the MVC large. Next week, it’s a Friday night showdown at usual Thanksgiving rival Andover.
“Look, the kid Thomas is a hell of a football player, the best player I’ve seen in my coaching career,” said Adamopoulos. “So you have to give them credit. I just think we could have done a better job in the second half.”
All the news was not good for the 2-1 Prep, which saw fullback/linebacker Greg Kobelski leave the game with an injury early.
“Every game means something in this new playoff system,” said Geaslen. “A loss or two and you could be on the outside, so this one was big for us. But that’s a good football team, and I won’t be surprised if we see them again.”
St. John’s Prep 40, Central Catholic 21
agateText:St. John’s Prep (2-1):7 14 6 13 — 40
agateText:Central Catholic (2-1):7 14 0 0 — 21
agateText: CC — D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie 2 run (Paul Karamourtopoulos kick), 9:35
SJ — Michael Calascibetta fumble recovery in end zone (Josh Hilty kick) 2:45
agateText: SJ — Johnny Thomas 6 run (Hilty kick), 7:25
CC — Drummond-Mayrie 6 run (Karamourtopoulos kick), 3:53
SJ — Mike Geaslen 1 run (Hilty kick), 1:55
CC — Mike Milano 7 run (Karamourtopoulos kick), 18.2
agateText: SJ — Thomas 6 run (kick wide), 3:22
agateText: SJ — Logan Mahoney 35 pass from Geaslen (pass failed), 6:11
SJ — Thomas 106 interception return (Hilty kick), 3:03
agateText:RUSHING: SJP (39-267) — Thomas 30-232, Cody Harwood 2-26, Geaslen 4-12, Austin Carrigan 3-(-3); CC (24-116) — Drummond-Mayrie 11-67, Milano 10-39, Cody Demers 1-8, Mike Balsamo 1-0, Markus Edmunds 1-4
agateText:PASSING: SJP — Geaslen 6-10-0, 97; CC -- Milano 15-28-1, 217
agateText:RECEIVING: CC — Cam Manning 1-15, Dan Wilson 3-39, Balsamo 3-37, Drummond-Mayrie 2-22, Karamourtopoulos 1-12, Edmunds 1-24, Demers 4-68