In a Super Bowl showdown matching the top-ranked teams in Massachusetts, No. 1 Xaverian High School bested No. 2 Everett. 38-29, to lay claim to the Division 1 state title Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
The game lived up to expectations as two of the Bay State’s most revered coaches, Everett’s John DiBiaso, and Xaverian’s Charlie Stevenson, and most successful programs went head-to-head for 40 minutes of exciting football in the New England Patriots’ home stadium.
Everett senior Lukas Denis ended his brilliant career with another All-Scholastic caliber performance. Denis had a 29-yard return of an interception for a touchdown and also caught a 21-yard TD pass from sophomore quarterback Jordan McAfee.
But it was Xaverian’s Noah Sorrento who seized the spotlight with a sensational four-touchdown, 187-yard rushing performance. Sorrento exploded for three second-quarter touchdowns to help Xaverian build a 31-14 lead at the half.
Sorrento received outstanding blocking, notably from Northwestern-bound tight end Joseph Gaziano, a 6-foot-4-inch, 245-pound senior who was the lead blocker for Sorrento on several of his carries.
Nick Orekoya scored the game’s first touchdown on a well-designed pass play. With two receivers set up on the left side of the field, Orekoya caught a pass from McAfee and turned it in to a 40-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead. Omar Herrera’s extra point made it 7-0.
Denis produced a big play later in the quarter when he snared an interception at the Xaverian 29-yard line and returned it for a touchdown. Everett’s Grandhi Deris also helped blanket the receiver on the play.
But Sorrento was the story in the second quarter, while Gaziano booted three consecutive PAT and a 30-yard field to make it 31-14 at the break.
The Tide regrouped and made a serious run at the Hawks in the third quarter. McAfee connected with Denis for a 21-yard touchdown pass and Nick Orekoya scored on a 4-yard run. Luis Cardona’s run for the conversion sliced the margin to 31-29.
However, Xaverian responded well to the threat and put together a scoring drive to reestablish the lead at 38-29.
“I think that that was the biggest swing in the game,” Charlie Stevenson. “We came back with a great drive to make it a two-score game again.”
What followed was the biggest sequence of the game. Orekoya bolted through Xaverian’s special teams’ coverage on the ensuing kickoff and appeared to be heading to the end zone for a touchdown. But Xaverian’s Mattison Cronin upended Orekoya on a touchdown-saving tackle. Orekoya was injured on the play though he did return to the field in the fourth quarter.
“That was biggest play of the game – [Cronin] making a touchdown-saving tackle on that kickoff return,” said Stevenson. “That gave us a chance to play defense instead of having to go back in a two-point game. That whole sequence, going up by two scores and making a touchdown-saving tackle on Nick [Orekoya], and Coby [Tippett] getting the pick – and us being able to get a couple of first downs after that. That was the critical part of the game.”
Xaverian held off Everett’s offense in the fourth quarter to wrap up the victory.
Stevenson, whose program won its sixth Super Bowl title during his tenure, praised the Crimson Tide.
“We were clearly the two best teams in the state,” said Stevenson. “Everett is always a great team to play against. It’s a great rivalry between Xaverian and Everett. John [DiBiaso] does an awesome job coaching that football team and his staff does a great job helping prepare them for the game. Their kids play hard all the time. I know all of my guys really look forward to the game and try and play their best game against Everett because they’re really the program that we try and be as good as.”