Denis leads Everett past St. John’s Prep, 34-23
Everett High senior Lukas Denis picked Homecoming Day and the largest crowd of the season to show once again why he’s one of the best all-around football players in Massachusetts.
After displaying the skill of defensive back predecessors Lubern Figaro and Manny Asprilla and the pass catching skills of Matt Costello, Denis took on the leadership mantle of former quarterback Matt Nuzzo and guided Everett on a 98-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter that helped produce a 34-23 victory on Homecoming Day at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Everett, who is ranked No. 2 behind Xaverian in the Boston Herald Sweet 16, improved its record to 3-1 while handing St. John’s and its new head coach Brian St. Pierre their first loss of the season.
Denis was the Tide’s third quarterback of the day. Sophomore Jordan McAfee left the game in the first half with an injury after absorbing a hard hit from a St. John’s tackler on a scramble. McAfee had been impressive, completing 12-of-23 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown (a 39-yarder to Jean Richard). Senior Alex Diaz came on as a replacement and also excelled for the Tide.
But it was the Boston College-bound Denis who led the final push in the fourth quarter. The Prep looked to be in a good shape when its punter Justin Foley pinned the Tide at their own 2-yard line. But Denis, behind some inspired blocking from the Everett offensive line, took over the game. Denis (105 yards rushing) had nine carries for 59 yards and scored on a 1-yard run to give Everett an 11-point lead with 3:32 remaining in the game.
Everett coach John DiBiaso praised his team for stepping up in the second half with the game on the line.
“This was a heavyweight battle,” said DiBiaso. “I’m very happy for the team. I thought we played physical in the second half. I thought we played tough. I’m proud of them but it’s only one game and it’s only the regular season. If you told me before that we could have been 3-1, I would have been satisfied. I would have liked to have been 4-0, but 3-1 is acceptable right now.”
St. Pierre, a former St. John’s Prep, Boston College and NFL quarterback, has guided his Eagles to a 3-1 record against four elite opponents.
“I think we could have played better, but I like the fight in my kids,” said St. Pierre. “We looked like we were on fumes today – we’ve had a tough four-game stretch playing a lot of Top-10 teams. We just ran out of gas today but Everett is a very good team and that’s going to happen against good teams.”
St. Pierre felt the difference was Everett controlling the ball for long stretches of the game.
“Their running game was a factor in the second half. Offensively, we had trouble sustaining drives. We hit some big plays but we missed a lot of opportunities for big plays. Defensively, we had trouble getting off the field. They extend a lot o drives and when that happens, it’s tough on your defense and your offense and you get worn down.”
St. Pierre declined to expound on the post-game discussion he had with DiBiaso at midfield following the hard-fought contest.
“It’s just a misunderstanding,” said St. Pierre. “I just wanted to communicate with him. I think we have an understanding.”
CRIMSON TIDE NOTEBOOK
Homecoming Day was a huge success, drawing a tremendous crowd to Everett Stadium on a summer-like afternoon.
John DiBiaso took a gamble that paid off late in the first half. DiBiaso elected not to go for a field goal on the final play of the half. Nick Orekoya rushed for a 5-yard touchdown as time expired. Orekoya was one of the stars of the game with 85 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Line coach Mike Milo’s men up front had another stellar outing against a big and talented St. John’s unit. Guerschom Jean-Louis, Jefferson Palencia, Eric Trickett, Erick Browne, DJ MacDonald, and Division 1 tight end prospect Jonathan Colimon were among the key blockers for Orekoya and Company.
St. John’s receiver Jake Burt, who will be Denis’s teammate at Boston College next season, made a spectacular catch in the third quarter.
How good is Tewksbury? Very good. The Redmen rolled to a 27-7 win over North Andover, one of the top-rated teams in Division 2. The 21-20 loss to Everett a week earlier was no doubt a confidence booster for Tewksbury.
Johnathan Freitas, a 5-foot-9, 215-pound Don Nottingham-style running back, scored Everett’s first touchdown on a 2-yard run.
Defensive secondary coach Ryan Taylor is certainly drawing positive reviews for his work. With Jimmy Noel, Rodman Noel, Manny Asprilla, Lubern Figaro, and Lukas Denis, Everett is becoming a Division 1 pipeline for defensive backs.
It’s great to see Diamond Ferri patrolling the Everett sidelines as an assistant coach. Ferri was an absolute force in his Everett High football career before going on to Syracuse where he is the answer to this trivia question: Who is the only player in Big East history to earn the Defensive and Offensive Player of the Week Awards in the same week. Ferri personally denied BC a major bowl bid with his performance at running back and defensive back that day.