By Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7)
EVERETT, Mass. – One of the most storied programs in MIAA history began the season on a low note.
The Crimson Tide dropped highly touted tilts against Xaverian and Billerica by a total of six points to go 2-2 in September, and that’s when head coach John DiBiaso decided it was time to try a different motivational strategy.
“We had to gain some confidence,” DiBiaso recalled. “We weren’t a very good team last year. We were 5-5 and that wasn't reflective of where we wanted to be. After we lost two close games early in the season I pulled everyone together and said ‘Look, you’re a reflection of your record and you’re 7-7 over the last year and a half. Do you want to be remembered as a .500 team or do you want to accept the challenge and bounce back?’”
After skating past Andover, 62-33, for their third consecutive blowout win on the way to a Division 1 North title and a guaranteed rematch with Xaverian in the Super Bowl next month, Everett’s players have done more than just bounce back.
Everett absolutely dominated Haverhill (35-6) and Central Catholic (43-18) on their way to a showdown with No. 7 Andover in the state semifinals.
True to form, the Tide opened their penultimate test in similar fashion, scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions to build a 27-7 lead after one quarter.
“We wanted to get out in front early because we know [Andover] is very explosive,” said DiBiaso. “I thought our offensive line did a great job. Marvens [Fedna] sprained his ankle, but the other guys stepped up and [Mike] Sainristil made some big, big plays.”
Everett’s lead back Fedna set the tone with a 27-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter, but suffered an ankle injury shortly thereafter and gave way to his teammates.
After the Tide’s defense held, Sainristil (3 receptions, 102 yards, 3 total TDs) took a screen pass 58 yards for another score, and then backup running back Jacob Miller scored from two yards out. Bruising back Charles Jenkins (7 carries, 166 yards, 3 TDs) added a fourth score and the Tide seemed firmly in control with a 20-point lead.
Andover responded when quarterback E.J. Perry (21-of-45, 342 passing yards, 3 TDs, 3 INT; 15 rush, 141 yards, 2 TDs) found Joe Rockwell for a 10-yard score, but Everett immediately struck back when Sainristil took the ensuing kickoff back 93 yards for a score to make it 33-14.
An extremely talented sophomore, Sainristil made most of the Andover defense miss on a well-blocked screen pass in the first quarter, and displayed impressive patience while waiting for a hole to open on his 93-yard return touchdown, but his interception for a touchdown might have been the single biggest play of the game.
The Crimson Tide went into the half up 41-20, yet the visiting Golden Warriors seemed to have some momentum after a strong second quarter.
“During the first half I wasn’t playing well on the ball, but we walked into the locker room and coach said to bring your focus and play,” Sainristil said. “The first play of the second half, [Andover] ran an arrow, and [defensive back] Jason Maitre said, ‘they’re going to run it again,’ so I cheated up, I read [Cedric Gillette]’s hips and I broke downhill on the ball and I was able to find the end zone from there.”
Sainristil’s 33-yard return touchdown put Everett up 48-20, and the Tide would eventually expand the lead to 62-20, as their defense came up with stop after stop while the offense continued to rip through Andover’s overmatched defense.
“The offense is clicking on all cylinders right now,” confirmed DiBiaso. “We’ve got two big tests [Thanksgiving game and D1 Super Bowl] left and we just have to get healthy and rested ahead of those challenges.”
Check out the video highlights of Everett's win below
Breakdown - Andover vs. Everett from Greg Story on Vimeo.