SHREWSBURY — The Saint John’s Pioneers and Shrewsbury Colonials both wanted this one badly.
There was no love lost between the cross-town rivals on Friday night at Pioneer Field — the game was physical, players were excited, and the crowds were raucous. After 48 minutes of hard-fought football, Shrewsbury came away with a 13-10 win after scoring with 14 seconds left on the clock.
“This game means so much to our community, so much to our kids,” Shrewsbury Head Coach John Aloisi told the Community Advocate after the game. “Obviously, [winning this game] is extra sweet.”
Each team had rather forgettable opening drives, but Saint John’s drew first blood one minute before the end of the first quarter. Quarterback Dylan DiPietro scrambled into the end zone to put the Pioneers ahead 7-0. DiPietro would hurt the Colonials with his legs all night, frequently escaping the pocket for big gains.
Saint John’s threatened to score again at the end of the second quarter. After an extended drive featuring repeated runs from Logan Mercer, the Pioneers found themselves at the Shrewsbury five-yard line with 54 seconds remaining in the half. The Colonials defense held strong, and on fourth-and-3, DiPietro’s pass fell incomplete.
Saint John’s went into halftime up 7-0.
The third quarter was more of the same for the Colonials; the offense came out flat and punted the ball to Saint John’s. The Pioneers – who started the drive at their own one-yard line – spent nearly the whole third quarter moving the ball downfield. Shrewsbury once again stood firm at the goal line – Casey Gingras stopped the Saint John’s running back in the backfield on third down, and the Pioneers were forced to take the field goal. With 8:36 remaining in the game, Saint John’s led 10-0.
Then Shrewsbury came to life.
“We have to fight hard and execute. We need to know the plan really well, execute, and play hard. The kids played right through the end – I’m so proud of them for that. We were down 10, we just kept moving on to the next play and kept going,” Aloisi said.
Shrewsbury spent the next three minutes marching down the field. Led by quarterback Drew Vincequere, Josiah Spiegel, and Felix Pittorino, the Colonials clawed their way back into the game. With 5:26 remaining, Spiegel dashed into the endzone to narrow Saint John’s lead to 10-6 (the extra point was missed).
“We just stuck to the plan. Our defense played really well all game. Offensively we just got clicking a little bit. The energy on the sideline was tremendous, the energy in the crowd was great. We just got clicking. The kids just execute; I can’t say enough about us increasing our energy level at the end,” Aloisi said.
The Pioneers strung together some good plays to open their next drive, but Shrewsbury had the momentum. With just under four minutes left in the game, Shrewsbury cornerback Ethan LePoer stepped in front of DiPietro’s pass and intercepted the ball. The interception was LePoer’s second of the game (LePoer had a third interception, but it was called off because of a penalty).
“I just have an eye for the ball,” LePoer said. “The team really came out and played crazy. The coaches – I have to thank the coaches – we schemed [Saint John’s] all week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. The coaches are going nonstop. The coaches put in the work the entire time and all we need to do is execute on the field.”
“The energy just shifted. I feel like at the start we were really slow, but as it kept going we got more high-fives, everybody was jumping around, and we were loud… We just got rolling from there,” LePoer added.
The Shrewsbury offense had finally found its groove, and the team quickly drove into the red zone. Down four points, the Colonials needed a touchdown, but scoring would not come easy. Shrewsbury advanced deep into Saint John’s territory, and with just 14 seconds left in the game, Vincequere found his way into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. The Colonials won 13-10.
The Shrewsbury crowd erupted; the Saint John’s fan section drew quiet.
Shrewsbury (now 2-1) handed Saint John’s (now 2-1) their first loss of the season.
Shrewsbury has now won two consecutive games against Saint John’s. Prior to last year’s 18-15 Shrewsbury victory, Saint John’s had defeated the Colonials seven straight times.