FITCHBURG — At the beginning of a new rivalry with the inaugural Bishop’s Cup at stake, Damien Jones made his presence known early, often and all over the field.
Jones rushed nine times for 137 yards and four touchdowns, and picked off three passes Wednesday while leading the Bernardians past St. Paul, 48-14.
The junior dominated where and when he wanted against the Knights, who were playing in their first Thanksgiving game. How did this performance rank in his already illustrious high school career?
“It definitely ranks up there,” said Jones, the Bernardians’ player of the game. “But it is probably still number two. Last season against Littleton is still number one for me.”
On April 1 during the Fall II season, Jones rushed for 220 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner in a 36-30 victory.
The Bernardians (6-4) quickly vaulted to a 20-0 lead. They took over deep in Knights territory after a high St. Paul snap. Jones scored his first touchdown of the game on a 13-yard sweep for a 6-0 lead after the Knights lost outside containment.
The Knights (4-6) responded with a lengthy drive, to the St. Bernard’s 23, from where a touchdown pass was called back for a holding penalty. Two plays later, a similar fade route was well defended, with Jones recording his first pick of the game and returning it into St. Paul territory.
Two plays after that, Jones scampered his way into the end zone from 25 yards, following a nifty juke.
Jones picked off a second pass at the start of the second quarter, capping an impressive 13-minute stretch during which Jones had two interceptions to match his two rushing touchdowns.
With the Bernardians driving again, the Knights came up with its first big play of the game. St. Paul senior Ryan Gentilucci was able to high-point a well-thrown ball from St. Bernard’s quarterback Chris McGuirk for a timely takeaway in his own end zone.
The ensuing possession, however, resulted in a quick three-and-out. Not long afterward, Jones dashed 24 yards for his third score of the first half. His conversion rush gave the Bernardians a 20-0 lead.
The Knights, desperate for a momentous play, got it in the form of a sensational return on the ensuing kickoff. Senior Colin Johnson returned the kick 85 yards for a touchdown, followed by a rushing conversion.
Jones quickly responded by taking the ensuing kickoff into the Knights territory. From there, the Bernardians scored again, this time on Antonio Mancini’s 14-yard run, and St. Bernard’s led, 26-8, at halftime.
Jones, who saw snaps at running back, cornerback and even behind center, scored his fourth TD early in the third quarter, from 47 yards, with McGuirk’s conversion rush hiking the count to 34-8.
“The coaches do a great job, putting me in the right positions to make plays,” said Jones, who collected his third interception of the game in the third quarter. “I have great teammates who help me succeed. All I have to do is make it happen.”
Freshman John Walsh Karam got the start at QB for the Knights, and Johnson, who was named the Knights’ player of the game, also took snaps at quarterback.
Also in the third quarter, Mancini scored his second TD, from 46 yards, and Cole Blair completed the Bernardians’ scoring with a 6-yard run and 2-point rush.
The Knights’ Jack Lizewski ran 25 yards for the final TD of the night.
The game’s top lineman trophies went to senior Liam Grow of St. Paul’s and junior Stefano Allen of St. Bernard’s.
—Contact Matt Williams at email@example.com.
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