By Cary Shuman
Xaverian was controlling the ball and the clock in the first half, but Everett showed its mettle when it mattered most.
With Everett holding a four-point lead at the half, junior quarterback Jake Willcox and the state’s best offense went to work, scoring on the first possession of the second half and accounting for 21 unanswered points. The Everett defense, led by linebacker Duane Binns and defensive backs Lewis Cine and Mike Sainristil, stopped the Hawks offense cold in the red zone.
Everett ultimately took home the Super Bowl trophy, beating Xaverian, 35-10, to lay claim to the Division 1 state title Saturday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
The Crimson Tide, under legendary head coach John DiBiaso, won the title for the second year in a row. Everett maintained its No. 1 ranking in Massachusetts for the entire 2017 season. The seniors leave the program with a 19-game winning streak and two Super Bowl rings.
If Everett football fans had to pick to “a play of the game” it would be Kevin Brown’s spectacular 98-yard run for a touchdown following a tremendous stand by the Everett defense. Brown took a handoff from Willcox and after receiving a perfect block by wide receiver Anthony Norcia, outraced what seemed like the entire Xaverian secondary to the end zone.
“Before the play, I told him, ‘Kevin, I bet you’re going to break this one long,” related Willcox. “He ended up taking it 98 yards and I was one of the first ones down there to celebrate with him.”
DiBiaso also hailed one of the longest runs in Super Bowl history.
“That was a super run by Kevin and a key block from Norcia,” said DiBiaso.
Sainristil made the biggest play of the first quarter when he intercepted a Xaverian pass and returned it 43 yards for the touchdown. Senior placekicker Caio Costa, kicked the first of his five PATs to make it 7-0. Sainristil made some nice moves to elude the Xaverian players who tried to keep the 5-foot-11-inch junior out of the end zone.
Sainristil scored on a 3-yard run to make it 14-0 and many fans were likely thinking that another Everett rout was in order.
But Xaverian countered with a touchdown and a field-goal to close the gap to 14-10. In the final seconds of the first half, Everett executed well a trick play, the old hook and ladder (lateral), to apparently set up Costa for a long field goal try. But the referees, much to the dismay of the Everett fans, ruled that the first-half clock had expired.
It only took three plays for Everett to make a statement in the second half. Wilcox connected with Norcia for a 28-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 21-10. It was a fitting, final performance for the sure-handed and ever-efficient Norcia, who had nine receptions for 124 yards.
“Anthony ran a great pattern for that touchdown to open the second half, but he comes up with big plays all the time” said DiBiaso. “Jake put the ball on the money, and the touchdown gave us a little breathing room, and the defense stepped up and got a big stop at the goal line.”
Xaverian threatened late in the third period but the Everett defense held firm at its own 2-yard line. Brown then turned the momentum entirely Everett’s way with his coast-to-coast excursion that will join Gennaro Leo’s leap over the pylon for a two-point conversion and Frank Nuzzo’s 90-yard interception return on the EHS list of unforgettable Super Bowl memories.
Willcox (14-of-25 for 205 yards and two TDs) and Isaiah Likely completed the scoring with a 14-yard connection in the fourth quarter. Likely had an excellent season for the Crimson Tide, forming one of the most prolific receiving corps in EHS history with Mike Sainristil, Jason Maitre, Anthony Norcia, and David Zorrilla, along with tight end Jalen Smith.
Coach John DiBiaso reflected on another championship season. “I’m elated about winning the Super Bowl,” said DiBiaso. “I thought Xaverian did a good job keeping the ball out of our hands in the first half. I’m very proud of our team. I’m happy for the kids. I’m happy for the school, Mr. Foresteire, and the entire community.”
Supt. of Schools Frederick Foresteire congratulated the EHS team on winning the state championship and adding another chapter to the school’s unmatched tradition in football.
“It’s quite an accomplishment, absolutely,” said Foresteire. “First of all, it’s a tribute to the boys of this community over the years. You can’t consistently win unless you have good kids. They’re focused, they’re disciplined and a pride to the community. And of course, we have great coaching, whether it’s coach DiBiaso or his assistants, all of them work at it, and many of them are former Everett players. John DiBiaso took over in the early 1990s, and we’ve been winning ever since.”