By Lorenzo Recupero
What’s going on over at Pope John High this fall is pretty historic stuff for the school, a renaissance if you will.
Just a few years ago the football program didn’t have a single athlete suit up in helmet and shoulder pads, going team-less for consecutive years. Click forward to the present and you’ve got an undefeated, well-coached, defensive juggernaut clawing through school records in dominating fashion.
The 2018 Tigers are not only still undefeated at 10-0, a school record through ten games, they are the MIAA Division 8 North Champions after pummeling Boston English/New Mission, 51-8, at Everett Stadium this past weekend.
The Div. 8 North sectional championship is the school’s first football title in 20 years. Pope John’s last title was a super bowl win back in 98’.
First-year head coach Paul Sobowlowski, a former Tiger and graduate of the class of 1988, nicknamed “The Fixer” in coaching circles, has sparked a rapid rebuild in the program this year and has found his team’s defense to be It’s greatest weapon.
The defensive prowess of today’s team has even surpassed his old squad in the record books.
“I was told by our stats keepers here in the school that our 80 points allowed back through ten games in 88’ has only been bettered by this year’s team,” said Sobowlowski, noting that his team’s 68 (6.8 PPG) allowed all year is a new school record.
The mighty defense of the Tigers has 9 touchdowns and snagged a whopping 15 interceptions this season.
In the championship win over Boston English/New Mission, the defense forced 5 turnovers, 4 of them into points.
The stout play and the prospect of a super bowl berth for the Tigers has been garnering attention of alumni at the school and coach Sobolowski knows the support is only a catalyst for success.
“With our 30th reunion for the class of 1988 around the corner, now’s a good time to get alumni support,” said Sobowlowski. “We are expecting a big alumni turnout in our next match and it’s what we’ve needed,” he said while acknowledging that the team’s success is creating a buzz.
Spearheading the effort all season has been 6-2, 220 pound running back John Smith Howell. The sophomore leads the team with 18 total touchdowns, good for second in all of division 8.
“We are so balanced and speedy that it’s hard to cover us,” admitted Sobolowski.
Adding to the teams tremendous stability are defensive backs Greg Smith (10 TDs) and Jesus Rivera III (8 TDs), as well as senior middle linebacker Ajan Nelson, who was last season’s defensive player of the year and has over 100 total tackles so far this season.
The Tigers will play for the Eastern Mass championship against the south sectional winner, West Bridgwater, on Saturday November 17 at Holbrook High School starting at 12 PM.
Should the Tigers win, it would be coach Sobowlowski’s first ever super bowl game. He played in last year’s EMass Final as a the coach of Cathedral but came up short.
“This is where I got last year and got knocked out, this is a big game,” he said.
In the two games he’s ever coached against West Bridgwater, Sobolowski is 2-0.
A fan bus will be driving students and fans to the game leaving from Pope John High School on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. The cost for the ride is $10.