Xaverian wins defensive battle over Brockton


BROCKTON — It was the type of game you could term "neck roll football."


Two and three tight end sets. Unbalanced lines. Iso. Power. Fullback dives and traps.


In other words, the style of offense Xaverian has mastered over the years, an old-school identity that still wins games in the age of the spread.


With a stifling defense, and a running game that found its rhythm in the second half, the Hawks outlasted an undermanned Brockton team at Marciano Stadium Friday night, 14-0.


The win improves Xaverian to 4-1, while the Boxers fall to 2-2.


Fittingly, Xaverian's leading rusher was a fullback, Michael Masse, who scored the game's only offensive touchdown on a 35-yard run on the opening drive of the third quarter. He finished with 80 yards on five carries.


Junior Justin Wenstrom added a 36-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter to seal it.


In one of the state's most storied modern rivalries, Xaverian has not lost to the Boxers since 2012, and before that 2007.


However, the respect between the two programs remains at an all-time high.


"I think we've got a really good relationship with the football program at Brockton and coach (Peter) Colombo," Xaverian coach Al Fornaro said. "It's just going to be a fight. And I told our men all week, (the Boxers are) fighting for their city. It's like the old Hoosiers: win on Friday night, get a free haircut on Saturday. These guys (live) in the neighborhoods where the guys who played in the 80's, in the 90's lived, and say, 'You better not lose to that team.'


"And Mr. (Dan) Ventura (of the Boston Herald) does us no help and publishes the 'Through the years,' and it's seven in a row, or whatever the hell it is, and let's give (Brockton) more incentive. But it was a really good high school game. Not chippy. And they fought hard. And I congratulated Peter. I said, 'Pete, I know you were severely undermanned, down at least four guys.' That's tough in high school. I don't care if they're not your best guys. You lose four guys, again, I'm not really good in math, but you're playing with only seven, basically. They did a good job, and obviously the win is nice."


The personnel deficiencies Fornaro referred to cannot be understated. The Boxers were missing their starting quarterback, two leading rushers, leading receiver, starting tight end, and a starting cornerback.


Still, the Brockton coaches did not lighten the load for sophomore quarterback Devonte Medley, who performed well in the first half, especially considering the circumstances. The Boxers opened in spread formations and tried to take advantage of their height advantage at the wide receiver and tight end positions.


The strategy found some decent success. Medley completed five of his first six passes for 69 yards, including a 34-yarder to Taisun Doherty-Glenn.


But both defenses dominated the opening half, as Xaverian only managed 44 yards on 20 plays from scrimmage, and Brockton 89 on 19.


Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel to generate offense, Xaverian stuck to what it does best to move the ball.


"We just came out there ready to fight and just wore them down, played Xaverian football," Masse said.


"Pound the ball. Four yards a play," Fornaro said. "I’m not real good at math, but after three downs, you get a first down. It’s 12 yards."


Starting from their own 38-yard line to begin the third quarter, the Hawks gave it to Mike Saliba three straight times, and the hard-running senior gained 24 yards. After a short Luke Thorbahn gain, Masse found a hole up the middle, muscled through a tackle at the second level, and powered in for the only touchdown the Hawks needed with 8:50 to go in the quarter.


Brockton continued to get creative with Medley, mixing in option runs and bootlegs to find ways to move the ball. But a 24-yard gain on an option pitch to junior Ajani Horne (44 yards on eight carries) served as the only first down for the Boxers in the second half.


Wenstrom applied the finishing blow with his interception return for a touchdown with 6:34 to play.


Despite the loss, Colombo was encouraged with how his team fought.


"We just told them, I’m very proud of the way we battled against a very, very good football team," he said.


Masse reinforced the respect the two programs have for each other, and how even though Xaverian has dominated the rivalry, it still has special meaning to the players involved.


"They’re a tough opponent, really physical. They like to play (physical), too," Masse said of the Boxers. "They played a tough game. That’s why we didn’t have any points in the first half. But we came out ready to fire, and, yeah, I love playing them."

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