By Cary Shuman
Talk about a flying start.
The Everett High football team launched its 2017 campaign in very impressive fashion, beating No. 2-ranked Xaverian, 38-7, on Homecoming Day before a huge crowd Saturday at Everett Memorial Stadium.
The game itself began wonderfully for Everett as junior quarterback Jake Willcox connected with Jason Maitre on the first play from scrimmage for a 70-yard touchdown. Willcox hit the Boston College-bound senior in stride and he outraced the Xaverian secondary to the end zone.
Willcox was brilliant at the controls of the multi-weapon offense, completing 11 of 17 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns. Isaiah Likely, a 6-foot-5-inch senior, had three catches for 92 yards and one TD. A 55-yard catch set up another Everett touchdown.
Likely said he was happy to contribute in his first game. “It’s a great feeling, new team, new players, different chemistry, but same attitude. Jake showed great accuracy in his passes. He’s a great quarterback who knows where to put the ball at the right time. There was great energy and a great crowd.”
Anthony Norcia, Everett’s answer to Julian Edelman, was sensational in his 2017 debut. He made the catch of the day on a fully extended dive in which he kept both feet in bounds. Norcia also forced a fumble and recovered a fumble on defense.
Junior Mike Sainristil also showcased his myriad of skills with two rushes for 21 yards and a touchdown and three receptions for 38 yards. Jacob Miller was Everett’s leading rusher with five carries for 29 yards and a touchdown.
There were a few tone-setting moments by the Everett defense that was well prepared for Xaverian’s quarterback Davin Sweeney and top running back Ike Irabor.
Duane Binns, who received the John Duggan Sportsman Award after the game, made a powerful tackle of Irabor that resulted in a fumble and the ball placed at the Xaverian 1-yard line. Lewis Cine, a 6-foot-3-inch, 185-pound junior who is receiving plenty of Division 1 college interest, led the Everett defense on the next play that resulted in a safety (2 points) and a 17-0 advantage.
Head coach John DiBiaso said the offensive linemen excelled in their pass blocking assignments, singling out the efforts of center Jonte Joseph, Gilbert Kabamba, Helber Fagundez, Wilson Frederic, and Josh Riggs.
During the post-game interview, DiBiaso was asked about “the process” by which Willcox succeeded Jordan McAfee, quarterback of the Division 1 state champions.
“There’s really not a process,” said DiBiaso. “Jake played as a freshman and backed up last year. He was ready. He did it himself. There was no plan or formula that you use. You just hope the kid works hard at practice and he did and he took a lot in – and he’ll be the first one to tell you that he has a lot of weapons.”
Willcox also praised the linemen and his star-studded receiving corps, notably Maitre, who opened the game with a 70-yard TD.
“It was a great day and great win,” said Willcox. “Jason Maitre broke the safety’s ankles and my line gave me all day. I just put the ball right there, he caught it and did the rest.”
Sal DiPierro, a 5-foot-8-inch, 250-pound lineman, kept the intensity up for the Everett defense with a forceful tackle of a Xaverian running back in the second half.
From start to finish, Homecoming Day belonged to the home team.
Willcox was named a Boston Herald Star of the Week for his offensive performance.
Isaiah Likely is receiving correspondences from Bethune Cookman (Daytona Beach, Fla.), URI, and Bryant, all of whom have him on their list of top recruits.
Binns said he was honored to receive the John Duggan Sportsmanship Award. The award is named for the late John P. Duggan, an Everett native who rose to become vice president of the Bank of New England and chairman of the board of Shore Bank and Trust. “Jack” served in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1942 to 1946 and fought at the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Pacific. Mr. Duggan attended every Crimson Tide football game for 40 years. The award recipient exemplifies the sportsmanship displayed by Mr. Duggan.
Everett spoiled the head coaching debut of Xaverian’s Al Fornaro, who succeeded longtime coach Charlie Stevenson. Fornaro held what appeared to be a coaches’ meeting on the visitors’ bench following the game.
“Everett is a good team and they’re very well coached,” said Fornaro. “We knew we had our hands full. We’re inexperienced, but that’s not an excuse. They beat us. They’re just a little too fast and athletic for us right now. We need to get better and they’re going to get better.”
Fornaro was impressed by Willcox’s effort. “If this is the starting point for him and he just gets better, he’ll be a very good quarterback. And he’s only a junior.”
Everett plays at Leominster Friday night. The Blue Devils are traditionally a Super Bowl contending team in central Massachusetts. Leominster fell to Marlboro, 28-7, in its season opener but the Blue Devils will be sky high and looking to defeat the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide in front of what should be an enthusiastic crowd at historic Doyle Field.
Congratulations to Supt. of Schools Frederick Foresteire on another spectacular Homecoming Day. The Everett stands were filled to capacity. There were people standing behind the fences in each end zone. And Mother Nature cooperated with a beautiful, late-summer day.
No one is looking past Leominster but St. John’s Prep is rededicating its football field on Saturday, Sept. 23 when Everett travels to Danvers – and there will be a standing room only crowd on hand for the Prep’s Alumni Day. St. John’s defeated Haverhill, 27-0, and plays Central Catholic Friday night in Lawrence.