The air was crisp. The stands at Veterans Memorial stadium were full with the Boston skyline peaking over Cabot Street. The Tide rushed on the field as the band played the fight song in a sea of roaring fans. Football was finally back in Everett.
The crisp, early autumn air was also filled with a bit of uncertainty. With the loss of their entire offensive line, Jalen Felix, Jakarrie Washington, and Kenny Calaj, Coach John DiBiaso’s offense had some big shoes to fill. With a breakout performance from senior transfer Joe D’Onofrio and a strong defensive effort led by senior captain Josh Palmer the team stepped up to the plate, defeating the Springfield Central Golden Eagles 31-23 on Friday night.
“I really wanted to prove everybody wrong because everybody said we were going to lose.” Palmer said after the game. “They’re a great team. They’re humble guys. They don’t talk trash. So I just wanted to go out there and play my best game.”
It was all Palmer’s defense in the first quarter. Central’s offense, led by senior quarterback, Cody Williams, put up a fight, going for it on fourth down on their first two drives. The defense was able to block Williams’ pass and stop him at the line of scrimmage, forcing the Eagles to turn the ball over on downs both times.
After going three and out on their first drive, Everett’s new offense picked up the pace with just over two minutes in the first quarter. Junior running back, Jonathan Freitas (13 carries, 89 yards), hustled through the Central defense for the first down. An 8-yard gain and an illegal procedure penalty put them at 2nd and 13 as they let the clock run out in the first quarter.
Joe D’Onofrio (19 carries, 160 yards, 1 TD) started the second quarter off with a rush up the right, coming just 5 yards short of the Central goal line. Quarterback Raheem Wingard’s (4-8, 75 yards, 2 TD’s) short pass to Parvelus was complete and the Crimson Tide was on the board 47 seconds into the second Quarter. Minutes later, Cody Williams’ offense marched down the field and evened up the score with a 6- yard touchdown pass to Tysean Williams in the end zone.
With the score tied and time running out, the Crimson Tide took back their lead after a D’Onofrio 19-yard touchdown run. The half looked like it came to an end with a huge sack on Cody Williams. However, the Tide charged with defensive holding, allowing Central to kick a 32 yard field goal, making it 14-10 going into halftime.
The Crimson Tide took the ball down to Central’s 20-yard line and looked like they would take back the field goal they gave up to end the first half. But the kick was tipped at the line of scrimmage, forcing Everett to turn the ball over on downs. A wide-open Malik Johnson received a 20 yard TD pass to put Central up 17-14 with 7:21 left in the third.
A quick three and out from Everett put the dangerous Springfield offense back on the field. The Tide’s defense wasn’t going to let them go anywhere this time, as Palmer forced a fumble picked up by Phil Calvaire. Unfortunately, the offense gave the ball right back to Central, as quarterback Pat Long’s pass was intercepted by Ju’an Williams at Central’s 4-yard line. A bad hand off to Cody Williams led to a safety, giving the Golden Eagles only a one point lead with 3:31 left in the third.
With Wingard back on the field, the offense broke away after a 60 yard TD completion to Michael Lopes and a successful two point conversion put the Crimson Tide on top for good leading 24-17 with 2:38 still left in the third.
The Golden Eagles weren’t going to go down without a fight. An 8-yard Marquis Holman touchdown run gave the Tide a comfortable 14-point lead early in the fourth. But the talented Williams took the ball right down the field, passing the ball to Johnson who would take it 31 yards right to the end zone, for what would be the end of Central’s scoring for the night. Everett was able to convert three first downs before taking a knee, ending their season opener with a final score of 31-23.
Coach DiBiaso was happy to come out of the game with the win over one of the toughest teams in the state, but knows that the team has a lot of work to do to defend their Division 1 title.
“We just got to cut out the mistakes. Too many penalties, too many men on the field, fumble on the two yard line. You can’t do those things and be successful,” he said.
The Crimson Tide will look to make those adjustments Friday as they take on Xaverian Brothers High School at home. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.