SHREWSBURY, Mass. — Another game ended in bitter anguish for a highly touted St. John's football squad that finds itself on a three-game losing streak after a 5-0 start.
Leominster's Neil O'Connor caught a 5-yard touchdown pass with just four seconds left, sending the Pioneers off the field, heads bowed in disappointment, with a 37-34 loss.
St. John's lost a 51-46 thriller to rival Shrewsbury two weeks ago, and was blown out by St. John's Prep, 49-8, last week.
"We seemed to have lost our composure at the end," said running back Shadrach Abrokwah, who ran for three touchdowns. "They were able to capitalize on us and made the big play."
A game that St. John's led 21-7 after the first quarter became close when the Pioneer offense stalled in the second quarter, and Leominster (5-2) fought back. St. John's quarterback Andrew Smiley threw an interception, and they were also stopped on a fake punt just before halftime.
Leominster's star quarterback, Garrett DellaChiaie, used his legs and arm to impose his will throughout the Super Bowl rematch, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another.
"We knew it was going to be a dogfight," DellaChiaie said. "We weren't predicted to win so we knew what we had to do. Our team is really up right now."
Leominster completed its comeback with 4:49 remaining in the fourth quarter. Shane O'Donnell scored on a 1-yard run, and the Blue Devils chose to go for the lead rather than the tie. DellaChiaie hit Jerrell Addo on a surprise roll-out pass for the two-point conversion and Leominster took the 29-28 lead.
As was the case against Shrewsbury, St. John's didn't waste any time with a response. After some big runs from Smiley, John Giacoppe made a toe-tapping catch in the back of the end zone from 18 yards out.
The 1:54 left on the clock turned out to be just enough for DellaChiaie, who accounted for 63 of the 77 yards on the final drive.
"There's a lot of good leadership, and that's what really held us together today," DellaChiaie said.
"We knew that time wasn't on our side — we had to get out of bounds — and kids made some good plays for us."
For the Pioneers, coach John Andreoli said the most important thing is to get back to work.
"We didn't make the plays we had to in order to win," he said. "You can't take any deep breaths here; we have the kind of schedule that we have to be ready to play each week."
St. John's and Leominster last met in last year's Super Bowl, a game that Leominster won, 21-6. Last year, Leominster recovered from a three-game losing streak to make it to the championship, and St. John's (5-3) will look to get on track next week when it hosts Xaverian (1-6).
"We have to have a great week of practice, practice 100 percent," Abrokwah said. "As a captain, I need to bring the team up and get us back in that winning attitude."
SJ - Shadrach Abrokwah 9 run (Dan Crowley kick), 10:10
L - Neil O'Connor 31 pass from Garrett DellaChiaie (Matheus Darosa kick), 3:50
SJ - Abrokwah 8 run (Crowley kick), :25
SJ - Andrew Smiley 25 run (Crowley kick), 8:51
L - DellaChiaie 1 run (kick failed), 4:45
Halftime: St. John's 21, Leominster 13
L - Matt Banchs 9 run (Mayson Williams run), 8:50
SJ - Abrokwah 4 run (Crowley kick), 9:15
L - Shane O'Donnell 5 run (DellaChiaie pass to Jerrell Addo), 4:49
SJ - Giacoppe 18 pass from Smiley (pass failed), 1:54
L - O'Connor 5 pass from DellaChiaie (Williams run), :04
Final: Leominster 37, St. John's 34