DANVERS - For Catholic Memorial's Big Three, it was No. 3 who got it done when it mattered most.
Andrew DiBartolo's fourth-quarter touchdown run was the difference in the No. 12 Knights' pivotal 12-7 win over host St. John's Prep yesterday.
"We have three guys [DiBartolo, Lorenzo Warren, and Delroy McDonald] who we shuffle in and out of the backfield," said coach Alex Campea of his trio of running backs, who combined for 176 yards on 32 carries. "It doesn't matter who is in there. I expect all of them to execute and that's what they did today."
On third-and-goal from the Prep 5, DiBartolo took the option pitch into the end zone for a 12-0 lead, forcing Prep to open up its playbook with less than six minutes remaining. The Eagles (4-4, 0-1 Catholic Conference) lost for the fourth straight time since they broke then-No. 1 Everett's 63-game winning streak.
"We just knew we had to get in, so everyone went all-out on the play," said senior captain DiBartolo, who finished with 73 yards on 11 carries. "Everyone thinks CM is the same old CM who goes 1-3 in the conference every year, but we're coming out and making a statement."
The first half ended with CM (7-0, 2-0) holding on to a 6-0 lead, a product of defensive excellence and conservative play-calling from both coaches. The teams combined for three punts on fourth-and-short scenarios.
Having a fresh set of downs inside Prep's 10, the Knights lost yardage and settled for a 24-yard field goal by Tom Byrnes, who started the season with the junior varsity.
Byrnes's second kick, a 34-yarder with 30 seconds left in the half, was made possible by two great plays from tight end Joshua Boyd. On the first, Boyd got open on an inside slant route and caught an overthrown pass by quarterback Dave Marshall with one hand, reeling it back into his body and turning upfield for a 29-yard gain. Two plays later, Boyd took a screen pass through 13 yards worth of defenders.
The Eagles started to take some risks. Unfortunately for the home team, the risks resulted in three straight drives ending in turnovers, including DiBartolo's interception of a long pass as the half came to an end.
On its first drive of the third quarter, CM returned the favor, when Brian Keenan intercepted Marshall's pass inside the red zone. Prep, however, was unable to convert on a fourth-and-1 at CM's 6.
After the stop, the Knights were able to drive 94 yards into the end zone, highlighted by a 40-yard run by McDonald up the left sideline on a crucial third-and-6. Facing another third down, Marshall hit Brian Daley for a 14-yard completion, just enough to keep the drive alive. DiBartolo then punched in his score.
Prep made it close late in the fourth. Brendon Felder left a plethora of defenders in his wake, juking and jiving 36 yards for a TD. But Donald Bland picked off Prep's Greg Donahue with less than two minutes remaining to seal CM's victory.