Saturday, December 3, 2016

RECAP: Everett Breaks Through Against Xaverian in D1 Final

By Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7)

LYNN, Mass. – In late September, the Everett Crimson Tide dropped a heart breaker in overtime at Billerica to move to 2-2 on the season.

Thinking back to last year’s 5-5 regular season record and the disappointment of a second-round loss in the Division 1 North playoffs, Everett quarterback Jordan McAfee said that was the moment when the team had to decide to turn things around.

“After the loss to Billerica, we got the message that we have to pick it up or it’s going to be a repeat of last year,” said McAfee.

After running the table in the regular season, dominating the opposition in the D1 North playoffs, and downing two-time defending champion Xaverian 21-7 for the program’s 11th Super Bowl over the last 21 years, it seems the Crimson Tide received that message loud and clear.

“They’re good kids,” Everett head coach John DiBiaso said about his group. “We’ve never had any disciplinary issues and there’s no selfishness on this team. It was a hundred hearts beating as one.”

Everett required a total team effort and great execution to defeat an elite opponent at Manning Field in Lynn. By jumping out to an early 14-0 lead over Xaverian and leaning on a stout defense comprised of speedy linebackers and strong defensive ends, the Tide was able to control the D1 Super Bowl from start to finish.

Sophomore wide receiver Mike Sainristil (4 receptions, 88 yards, TD) set the tone by turning a short bubble screen into a 38-yard touchdown with his impressive speed to make it 7-0 two minutes into the game.

Early in the second quarter, Everett quarterback Jordan McAfee (11-of-20, 218 passing yards, 2 TDs) hooked up with junior David Zorrilla for a 56-yard gain and running back Marvens Fedna (16 carries, 63 yards, TD) finished the drive with a 10-yard score to make it 14-0 in favor of the Tide.

“The tradition of Everett football just gets us going from the start,” Sanristil said. “All summer coach had us working in the heat and none of us wanted to quit, because we knew what was in store this year. We asked the seniors, how do you want this season to end? And that was the story line for this year.”

Thanks to a dominant effort from their defense, the Tide maintained their lead and clinched a D1 state title without trailing at any point during the entirety of their playoff run.

Of course, Xaverian didn’t go down quietly, and we might be telling a different story if not for one or two pivotal plays.

The Hawks deferred after winning the opening kickoff and looked to produce a touchdown right before halftime to set up the opportunity for two consecutive scoring drives.

With 23 seconds left and the ball on the Everett 12-yard line, Xaverian faced a fourth down. Head coach Charlie Stevenson dialed up a great play call to get his top wide receiver Samuel Laurent open on a short slant route, but Everett’s senior defensive back Carlins Platel dove to break it up and preserve the Tide’s 14-0 lead heading into the break.

During their time in the locker room, Everett’s experienced coaches made sure that their players knew that the game was far from over.

“Coach [DiBiaso] said that bad teams make the mistake of looking at the clock when they’re winning,” Sainristil explained. “So we knew that we had to keep playing for those last 22 minutes and not take anything for granted.”

While Everett’s offense stalled throughout the third quarter, the Tide’s defense carried the day. Led by defensive captain and standout lineman Duval Paul, as well as seniors Gerell Boyce, Ducarmel Cine and Robert Fialli, the Crimson Tide held usually dominant Xaverian running back Devon Picinnin to 53 scoreless yards on 17 carries.

Junior linebacker Duane Binns led the team with seven tackles, adding a sack and a half and recovering an onside kick late that could’ve given Xaverian a shot to continue its last-second comeback bid.

“[The Hawks] are a very good team, but everyone had to stay disciplined and execute,” Binns said. “I had to read my cues from the tackles and the guards and once I did that I was able to make some plays.”

When asked to reflect on the season as a whole, Binns continued, “After those first losses, we were hungry. And it’s great to play with guys like [Boyce and Paul] who are just as hungry as I am. We knew we had to take it one game at a time to get back to the championship and every week we gained a lot of confidence.”

After coaching his way to an 11th Super Bowl Title since 1996, but first since 2012,  John DiBiaso seemed to feel a sense of relief.

“I feel the pressure every day,” DiBiaso laughed, “But I’m enjoying it for now and I’m happy for the kids. This one is all about the kids.”

Fittingly enough, after making that comment DiBiaso was promptly swept away by a crowd of jubilant Everett players, as the Tide rolled right out of Manning Field on a victorious wave.

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