Just when it looked like Springfield Central might stride into its locker room with some momentum and thoughts of toppling Everett from its No. 1-in-the-state ranking, junior Kenny Calaj more or less said, “Not tonight, Golden Eagles.”
Calaj’s electrifying 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in response to a Springfield scoring drive helped reenergize Everett and boost the halftime margin to a more comfortable 21 points.
Led by a Calaj of key plays and another impressive four-touchdown passing performance by quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso, Everett turned back ESPN preseason No. 20 Springfield Central by a comfortable 42-13 margin Friday night at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Reporters talked to Calaj about his turning point kickoff return for a touchdown.
“It was just great blocking by the entire team,” said Calaj. “I saw something right in the middle of the field, had a clean hole, cut it back and I was gone.”
Calaj had another superlative moment on the first play of the second quarter when he intercepted a pass in Springfield territory.
“The coaches tell us where to be on defense and I just stayed in the flats,” said Calaj, who plays cornerback on defense.
Jakarrie Washington made Springfield pay for the interception when he raced 23 yards on first down for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead. Washington had accounted for the first score when he caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from DiBiaso.
DiBiaso was 12-for-25 for 215 yards and also had touchdown strikes to Calaj (7 yards), Jalen Felix (14 yards), and Jaylen McRae (36 yards).
Linebacker Chris McCarthy led another solid effort by the Everett defense. Springfield’s workhorse back Sacoy Malone dented the Tide defense for 102 yards rushing and a touchdown, but other than that, defensive end Ralph Jonathas and Company made things difficult for quarterback Cody Williams and the Golden Eagles’ offense.
Springfield recovered an onside kick to start the second half but the Tide defense produced a three-and-out. On Everett’s second possession of the half, DiBiaso connected with Calaj for a seven-yard touchdown. Gilly Deousa booted his fifth PAT of the night for a 34-7 lead.
DiBiaso closed the show with a 36-yard gem to McRae for a 42-7 advantage with 4:07 left in the third quarter.
Head coach John DiBiaso liked what he saw but says there’s room for improvement.
“At halftime I wasn’t as happy as I should be and then I look up in the middle of the third quarter and we have 42 points,” said DiBiaso. “I still think we can get better.”
Everett travels to Danvers Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. game against St. John’s Prep.
Everett is now 2-0 with St. John’s Prep on tap for this Saturday at 1:30 p.m.