By Bill Burt
---- — It wasn’t easy for Michael Geaslen to leave some of his buddies at Andover High after his freshman year and transfer to St. John’s Prep in Danvers.
In fact, some people from Andover probably thought Geaslen was crazy, particularly knowing his desire to play football and baseball, two powerhouse sports at the Catholic high school.
But thanks to a lot of patience and determination, Geaslen’s senior season at St. John’s, which recently came to a close, was a memorable one.
Geaslen — who wasn’t named a starter until this past September — not only got to play quarterback this fall, but he broke a longtime school passing record held by a Hall of Famer while doing it.
The All-Catholic Conference League all-star threw for 1,280 yards, besting the previous mark at St. John’s set by Brian St. Pierre (1,180 yards), who later went to star at Boston College before spending eight years as a backup QB in the NFL with Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Arizona and Carolina.
“(Geaslen) had to wait his turn and to be honest, I think he surprised a lot of people,” St. John’s Prep football coach Jim O’Leary said. “But honestly, I believe he was ready to play as a junior if we needed him.”
Ironically, he almost did ... against his hometown Andover High squad in the Div. 1 semifinals last year in Lowell.
“Our starting quarterback, Jack Sharry, was out all week long with an injury,” O’Leary recalled. “It was a short week. We were prepared to start Mike against Andover. That would’ve really been something.”
Sharry ultimately was able to start the game and St. John’s eventually won, 20-0, with Geaslen taking some snaps late in the fourth quarter against his former school.
As for 2013, Geaslen was as solid as they come under some dire conditions as St. John’s Prep lost the “best” running back in the state, Jonny Thomas, to a leg injury four games into the season.
All of a sudden, the little-used forward pass would be en vogue under O’Leary.
“You lose a running back who already has 800 yards (in three-plus game) and you are definitely concerned,” O’Leary said. “When that happened, it really became Mike’s team. He showed his value to us after that game.”
For a few weeks, Geaslen also lost four starters on the offensive line, which made things very difficult.
But Geaslen’s game got better.
Geaslen threw for 10 touchdowns and ran for three more, as St. John’s finished 6-5, losing a heartbreaker to Catholic Conference champion and Div. 1 Super Bowl finalist Xaverian in the last minute of their Thanksgiving Day match-up.
“Mike drove us down the field and got us the go-ahead score in the final two minutes,” O’Leary said of the game. “But they came back and scored and Mike got us down to the (Xaverian) 24-yard line before the game ended.”
O’Leary said a few college football programs inquired about Geaslen as a quarterback, as he appears to still be growing at 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds. But the 18-year-old has already committed to play baseball at Northeastern University in Boston in the fall.
“I give Mike a lot of credit,” O’Leary said. “He stuck it out and kept working. And when his time had finally come, he came through.”