By Lorenzo Recupero
Behind the tutelage of first year head coach Paul Sobolewski, the 2018 Pope John football team made a name for itself, even with the, 45-36, loss against St. Bernard’s in the MIAA Division 8 Super Bowl last weekend at Gillette Stadium.
The thriller of a game will go down as the second most high-scoring affair in MIAA championship game history, with 81 points dropped combined between the two electrifying teams.
And In the eyes of the man at the helm, the biggest loss in recent program history may actually be setting up the next biggest win.
“[The Super Bowl] loss was more beneficial to the team than the 12 wins,” said Sobolewski, a reasoning that he says stems from a majority of the team being underclassmen, including its leading scorer, sophomore John Smith Howell. “As a program, we will learn a lot more from this,” he said while noting that his players have not left his office since their last game, unable to halt the focus on football ahead of them.
All season long, the Tigers (12-1) “overachieved” on the gridiron, according to Sobolewski, who suited up just four seniors in a season full of surprises and big time victories.
The program had never won 12 consecutive games, or that many wins in one season, coming just one more victory away from becoming the program’s all- time team had they captured the title.
The one big loss, though, did not discourage Sobolewski, who knows most his team will be returning next year with the goal of making it back to the big game to use their collective experience to alter its outcome.
“The first time you go as a team or an organization is tough because the preparation is so different,” said Sobolewksi of his super bowl experience. “For a group of mostly 14-15 year olds, starting in a super bowl is a little overwhelming, the scenery changes with all the media and things you got to learn to ignore all the noise,” said Sobolewski, who is con dent his team can do what it takes to get Pope John back down the road to Gillette next year.
“[St. Bernard’s] had an edge in big game experience so just getting there should help us for next year ” said Sobolewski.
DIV. 8 STATE FINAL
St. Bernard’s (12-1) 8 8 8 22 – 46
Pope John (12-1) 6 8 6 15 – 35
PJ – John Smith Howell 34 yard pass from Anthony Mejia (2-point conversion fail).
SB – 9 yard rush (2-pt. good)
SB – 2 yard run (2-pt. good)
PJ – Roshad John 23 yard pass from Mejia (Mejia rush)
SB – 39 yard pass (2-pt. good)
PJ – Jesus Rivera 23 yard pass from Mejia (2-pt. fail)
SB – 6 yard rush (2-pt. good)
PJ – John Smith Howell 55 yard rush (Greg Smith rush)
SB – 3 yard rush (2-pt. fail)
PJ – J. Smith Howell 2 yard rush (Erik Flores kick)
SB – 35 yard rush (2 pt. good)
Passing – Anthony Mejia, 7-13, 106 yards, 3 touchdowns.
Rushing – John Smith Howell, 19 carries, 116 yards 2 TDs ; Greg Smith, 8 carries, 34 yards.
Receiving – Jesus Rivera, 3 catches, 36 yards, 1 TD; J. Smith Howell, 1 catch, 34 yards, 1 TD; Roshad John, 1 catch, 23 yards, 1 TD.
POPE JOHN’S SEASON BY THE NUMBERS
Passing – Anthony Mejia, 1,200 passing yards.
Receiving – John Smith Howell, 490 Yards.
Rushing – J. Smith Howell, 119 carries, 1,335 yards.
Touchdowns – J. Smith Howell, 24.
Tackles – Ajan Nelson, 126.
Interceptions – Jesus Rivera, 7.