Luke Bell’s last-second kick gives Xaverian share of the Catholic Conference title

WESTWOOD — If the sequel is anywhere near as good as the original, Wednesday’s D1 state title game between Xaverian and St. John’s Prep will be another blockbuster.

On Thursday morning, Xaverian kicker Luke Bell booted a field goal as time ran out to give his team a 23-21 victory over Thanksgiving rival St. John’s Prep.

With the victory, Xaverian improves to 10-2 overall and earns a share of the Catholic Conference title. The Prep suffers its first loss of the season and stands at 11-1.

“It’s fantastic,” Xaverian coach Al Fornaro said of having to play the Prep twice. “I was talking to (St. John’s Prep assistant) coach (Mike) Barbati, who has been at St. John’s for a number of years. We were reminiscing about having to play at Boston College one year, where Zack Asack was our quarterback, and Nick Borseti was their linebacker. We played here (one year), we had the snow plows come out. We played one year where we lost Kenny Kern and Noah Sorrento for the Super Bowl where we lost to Central Catholic. Next man up, baby. Hunter Molway, our starting fullback and middle linebacker, was home with the flu right now. We played a junior. That’s why we practice. We don’t just practice 11 guys. We go out to practice every day, and be ready to go when needed.”

Thursday’s game featured high drama throughout. The Prep led, 21-20, in the fourth quarter, but Xaverian drove to the Eagles red zone and seemed poised for the winning score. Prep defensive back Grayson Ambrosh then picked off a Henry Hasselbeck pass in the end zone, and it looked like the Eagles might escape.

The Xaverian defense, though, forced a punt, and the Hawks took over at the Prep 43 with 1:32 to go. Hasselbeck hit Christian McIntyre for a big fourth-down conversion, and then Hasselbeck (82 yards and a TD rushing, 90 yards passing) gained 15 yards on a scramble, at the end of which, he broke his nose on a hit. Mike O’Connor (194 yards and two touchdowns rushing on 18 attempts) added a 5-yard run to set Bell up.

Bell then calmly booted a 30-yard field goal to give the Hawks the 23-21 win.

“I did (figure I would get my shot),” Bell said. “I knew they’d get me in range, and they did a great job. Henry got a little bloody, but I was just ready to go.”

Was he nervous?

“No,” Bell said. “Once I’m back there, I don’t really hear anything, just wait for the ball to get snapped, and kick it.”

Fornaro was upset that no penalty was called at the end of the Hasselbeck run.

“He got a broken nose,” Fornaro said. “I want to know how you get a broken nose and there’s no flag. That’s a mystery. It doesn’t come out of the ethos. Henry’s a tough kid. He’s a phenomenal athlete. He is the X-factor.”

The game started like it would be a shootout. O’Connor had a 38-yard run that set up his 6-yard touchdown on the game’s first drive.

Prep answered on its first drive, as Deacon Robillard ran in a 9-yarder to give the Eagles a 7-6 lead with 3:41 left in the quarter.

But O’Connor struck again, this time from 72 yards out, and the Hawks held a 14-7 lead following Caleb Brown’s conversion reception from Hasselbeck.

It stayed that way until halftime, but Prep came out firing in the third quarter. Robillard ran in a 15-yard touchdown to tie the score.

After a stop on the next Xaverian drive, Robillard hit Gavin Gold for a 17-yard touchdown, and the Hawks took a 21-14 lead.

But as was the case all day, Xaverian had an answer. On the last play of the third quarter, Hasselbeck weaved his way through the Hawks sideline, and raced for a 52-yard touchdown. For the second time in the game, though, Joseph MacDonald’s PAT was blocked, and it stayed 21-20, Prep, until the final moments. Fornaro said Bell’s ability to get his kick vertical was a factor in the decision to go for the field goal.

Robillard had 41 yards passing, while Gael Garcia had 57 yards rushing, and Jeff Quigley had 78 yards rushing for the Prep.

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