Whenever St. John the Baptist reviews the video of its loss against Xavier on Sunday, the Cougars should see if there is a way to view it in black and white instead of color.
Xavier used a 1950s-era single wing offense and executed it well with a cadre of strong, physical athletes. The Knights had a superior running attack and turned three possessions that started with St. John the Baptist turnovers into touchdowns as they rolled to a 41-6 non-conference win over the host Cougars in West Islip.
“It’s difficult to go against their style of offense and with only a week to get ready for it,” SJB linebacker Anthony Ermelino said. “We thought we were prepared, but they got the best of us today. They’re just a big, physical team. And they just they wanted it more than us today.”
Andrew Scariano rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns on runs of 15 and 4 yards for Xavier (2-3); Matthew Geruso rushed for 63 yards and three scores on runs of 1, 4 and 56 yards; and Gregory Steffans had an interception and a fumble recovery that led to scores.
Nick Mazziotti was 7-for-23 passing for 157 yards with two interceptions for St. John the Baptist (2-3) and Christian Maisel had six receptions for 149 yards but committed a fumble after a 68-yard catch. The Cougars also were coaxed into four encroachment calls by the Knights’ shifting line.
“You can’t make mental mistakes and turn the ball over against those guys when the game is competitive,” SJB coach Philip Alba said. “The way they play and grind you down, it’s very hard to come back once you get too far behind.”
Xavier has been running the single wing under coach Chris Stevens for some time, so teams know it’s coming. However, the Knights are the high school football rarity and unlike what most defenses are used to seeing.
Brian Boyle of Rockville Centre is a senior offensive tackle for Xavier and his side of the line — along with Daniel Chapman and Timothy Hollywood — opened gaps for five of the Knights’ six TD runs.
“The offense we run isn’t like what anyone else runs and that can be a big advantage,” Boyle said. “There is a lot of work in learning how to do everything involved, but we work hard at it. When we have it going like we did today, it’s pretty fun to watch.
“Also It’s nice when we play out here and win,” said Boyle, who commutes an hour each way to Xavier in Manhattan via the LIRR and city subway. “All my friends from out here go to Chaminade and Kellenberg so this is cool.”
All three of Geruso’s touchdowns came running behind Boyle, Chapman and Hollywood. So did Anthony Bruno’s 42-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
“We’re a very young team and a lot of our guys weren’t used to the physicality that Xavier brings,” Alba said.
In the waning minutes of the contest, St. John the Baptist had its most promising moment. Sophomore Kyle Chase got back on the field after missing time with a concussion. He completed a 35-yard pass before a 1-yard TD run. Alba called Chase “the future” of the Cougars and his strong play could make for some hard decisions by Alba and his staff.
“Maybe you’ll see both kids taking snaps going forward,” Alba said of Chase and Mazziotti. “I’m not going to be quick to make a wholesale change right away.”