WORCESTER — You could not keep the smile off Khari Johnson's face following Catholic Memorial's 49-25 win over St. John's of Shrewsbury Saturday night at Assumption College.
And new coach John DiBiaso, in his first game with the Knights since coming over from Everett, had a pretty big grin on his face, too.
"Listen, man, I haven't had this type of fun since, like, Pop Warner. This is amazing," said Johnson, who had a sensational night on offense, defense, and special teams. "Coming out, playing for (DiBiaso) every day, he always finds a way to challenge us, but we still have fun. It's a great feeling."
With the two teams going almost exclusively no-huddle, the offenses lit up the scoreboard all night. The teams combined for 1,021 total yards from scrimmage, but the most impactful play came on special teams.
With CM (1-0) ahead, 26-13, at the half, the Pioneers kicked off to open the third quarter. Johnson took the ball at his own 10-yard line, found a massive hole from his blockers, and motored 90 yards for the touchdown.
St. John's (0-1) never came within two scores again.
"I saw the lineup for my special teams, hit one hard cut, came back through the middle," Johnson said. "My team did it, just setting up the blocks, ran out full speed."
CM showed off an immense amount of speed, with the type of depth at the skill positions most teams can only dream of. Six ballcarriers toted the rock 38 times for 245 yards and three touchdowns, with junior Jamall Griffin (93 yards, two TDs on 11 carries) and sophomore Darius LeClair (94 yards, TD on six attempts) doing most of the damage.
Junior quarterback Barrett Pratt completed 16-of-23 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, both to Johnson, and junior Jack Lawn threw a 38-yard double-pass for a score to junior Daniel Lopes in the first quarter.
One of Pratt's touchdowns, his final throw of the night, came on a flea-flicker off a handoff to Griffin before tossing it to a wide-open Johnson for a 57-yard exclamation point of a score.
Of the 17 completions, they were spread the ball among seven different receivers.
"Well, we try to model it after (Everett)," DiBiaso said. "Use a lot of guys, let a lot of guys play, get the kids involved. It was a good first step, but it's only one step."
And all night, there were plenty of fast steps on both sides of the field. Johnson can fly, and LeClair clocked the fastest 55-meter time in the state for a freshman at Brockton last winter. He took a 74-yarder to the house with 44 seconds left in the third quarter to help put CM up, 42-13.
"We're such a selfless team," Johnson said. "It's a great feeling when everyone gets their touches and everyone gets their shine."
To their credit, despite playing from a deficit nearly the entire game, the Pioneers never quit. Quarterback Colin Schofield completed 28 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 80 yards and a touchdown. Wide receivers Shea Gallo-Kolegue (12 catches for 164 yards), Jay Brunelle (6-103, two TDs), and Eamonn Dennis (5-62, TD) were his main targets.
But Catholic Memorial forced four turnovers and did more than enough to hold off a relentless spread attack from St. John's.
After the game, DiBiaso was surrounded by a group of happy current and former Knights who delighted in the win and what this team could become under the legendary coach. He even hugged a group of reporters after thanking them for coming out on a Saturday night.
"I've had a lot of fun. I'm an old man," DiBiaso said. "But this was a great moment. I'm very happy for the kids. I'm thrilled for the school. I'm just happy for the CM community. I've had the experiences. I'm trying to give them to them."