EVERETT — On the strength of a dominant defensive performance, the top-seeded Pope John football team stifled Lynn Tech, 24-0, in a Division 8 North semifinal Saturday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The Pope John Tigers (9-0) limited Tech (6-3) to 53 total yards and built a 24-point halftime lead, with senior defensive back Jesus Rivera converting a 15-yard scoop for a score with 1:29 left in the second quarter.
The second half was pedestrian, but the postgame handshake became contentious, with words and shoves exchanged between coaches and players. Eventually, Pope John players headed to the locker room and Lynn Tech players to the bus.
“Our defense has been the heart and soul of our team all year,” said Paul Sobolewski, in his first season of his second stint as coach at Pope John. “What we do defensively sets a tone for us.”
Pope John struck first when Greg Smith (9 carries, 47 yards) scored on a 6-yard touchdown run and John Smith Howell (17 carries, 134 yards) had touchdown runs of 6 and 19 yards before Rivera’s score.
“[Smith Howell] is a playmaker, a dynamic kid,” Sobolewski said. “He’s so speedy. He set the tone for us and set up some other plays for us.”
Smith Howell was equally electric on defense, racking up a number of tackles and pass deflections, playing a big part in limiting Lynn Tech’s quarterback, David Barrios, to just 2-of-14 passing for 33 yards.
“He plays even better on defense,” Sobolewski said. “He was big.”
His Tigers will take on Boston English/New Mission in the D8 North final on Friday night.
“Boston English/New Mission is a great team,” Sobolewski said, “They’ve got some good speed to the outside, some tall receivers.”
Jake Caccavaro can be reached at email@example.com.