By Cary Shuman
You couldn’t ask for a better start or a better finish to the Everett High School football team’s Division 1 North quarterfinal against Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1 champion Haverhill.
Senior running back Chris Jenkins had a 30-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage and senior Marvens Fedna finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown.
Before the large Haverhill crowd and huge student body section had settled in to their seats (although the students were standing for most of the game), Everett had a 7-0 lead. The Tide never let up the pressure on the Hillies’ defense and took home a convincing 35-6 victory at Trinity Stadium in Haverhill.
Everett advanced to the North semifinals where it will play another Merrimack Valley powerhouse, Central Catholic. The game is a rematch of last year’s North final won by the Red Raiders.
Everett’s performance against Haverhill was in a word, awesome. The Everett coaching staff kept Haverhill off balance with its superb play calling all game. The Everett defense did a masterful job of containing Haverhill star Jean Charles (J.C.) Laguerre, limiting the senior running back to 25 yards on 17 carries.
Senior quarterback Jordan McAfee was steady and confident, completing 8-of-10 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Fedna took advantage of some excellent blocking up front to rush for 76 yards and two touchdowns. Head coach John DiBiaso credited the front five of David Pierre, Richardson Maitre, Bobby Lopes, Mike Smith, and Helber Fagundes Bringhenti for controlling the line of scrimmage.
There were two plays that stood out on a night of outstanding plays. Everett called a flea flicker in the second half beginning with McAfee’s handoff to Fedna, who tossed the ball to Jake Willcox, who connected with Anthony Norcia for a 35-yard gain.
But sophomore Mike Sainristil deserved ‘play of the day’ honors for an 87-yard return of an interception for a touchdown (Story on page 7).
Sainristil and defensive backs Lewis Cine, Jason Maitre, and Clarens Pierre slowed down Haverhill quarterback Broghean McGovern (13-for-30, 138 yards passing).
Duane Binns, RJ Fialli, Gerell Boyce, and Company helped hold the high-scoring Haverhill offense to one touchdown. The Everett defense made a crucial stand late in the first half when the Hillies were looking to cut in to the Tide’s 21-0 lead.
Sainristil’s return of an interception made it 28-0 before Haverhill answered with its only score. Norcia’s TD reception completed Everett’s scoring.
“The better team won tonight and Everett deserved it and I wish them nothing but the best,” said Haverhill coach Tim O’Connor. “They came to play and they were more physical. They got off the bus and we didn’t come out of the tunnel ready to fire away.”
O’Connor was candid in his assessment that perhaps the two best public school teams in Massachusetts shouldn’t have to meet in the first round.
“I feel like the system’s flawed – it is what it is,” said O’Connor. “Whether it was Week 1, 2, or 3, we had to face Everett, we had to face them eventually. The better team won. Our program has come a long way in my six years and I’m proud of our kids and the community support and hopefully our program continues to grow.”
John DiBiaso was pleased with the effort on both sides of the football.
“I thought we played well on both sides and except for the kickoffs, we played on special teams,” said DiBiaso. “We didn’t have any turnovers and didn’t have too many penalties. That’s how you have to play in a game like this – all three facets.”
McAfee, who’s made tremendous strides in his overall game, received praise from the head coach.
“Jordan is doing the job we asked him to do, reading the defenses and making the right calls and getting the ball to athletes in space,” said DiBiaso. “Jordan was excellent all game. The offensive line did well. Our offense has been operating pretty efficiently.”
Defensively, the Tide stopped the Hillies’ rushing attack for all four quarters.
“We were determined to take away the run and make them pass the ball and I thought we did a fairly decent job of that and we did a good job in coverage,” said DiBiaso.
Sophomore placekicker Gabe DeSouza was a perfect 5-of-5 on PATs and has hit 40 consecutive PATs this season.
Clarens Pierre almost recorded a safety when he tackled the Haverhill kick returner close to the goal line.
Haverhill’s Trinity Stadium is undergoing renovations. The baseball field, with artificial turf, is located right next to the football field. John DiBiaso recalled playing in an Everett-Haverhill baseball game and trying to catch a foul ball down the left field line and crashing in to one of the goal posts (there were two goals posts back then).
Haverhill coach Tim O’Connor’s father, Freddie O’Connor, was a punter for Chelsea High back in the 1960s.
Supt. of Schools Frederick Foresteire made the trip to Haverhill to help support the Crimson Tide.
If you’re wondering how we were able to predict Andover’s upset of undefeated Lexington, that’s easy: we listened to John DiBiaso when he said that Andover – because of its offensive firepower and quarterback E.J. Perry – had “a puncher’s chance” of besting Lexington. Like the old E.F. Hutton commercial, when John DiBiaso talks, people listen.
Not to look past an excellent Central Catholic team, but an Everett-St. John’s Prep rematch in the Division 1 North final would be a classic Saturday afternoon matchup on the Eagles’ home field. High school football doesn’t get better than the excitement and suspense that game would generate in the hearts of Everett and St. John’s supporters.