It was a classic between the state’s best public school football program and a perennial Merrimack Valley Conference powerhouse.
But the ending of the Everett-Central Catholic matchup in the Division 1 North semifinals was anything but classic.
And Everett High head coach Theluxon Pierre expressed his displeasure with the referees’ call on the final play of the Tide’s 39-37 defeat to Central Catholic Saturday in Lawrence.
With Everett needing a two-point conversion to tie the game and send it in to a second overtime, the referees, after a lengthy discussion, ruled that quarterback Duke Doherty had not crossed the goal line, giving the host Red Raiders the win.
“I saw it on the field, and from a photograph that was sent to me, Duke’s entire upper body is in the end zone with the football,” said Pierre.
There was an additional controversy in the second half that also bothered Pierre. The referees gave Central Catholic an extra (fifth) down on its possession that led to a touchdown and a Central Catholic seven-point lead – instead of Everett getting the ball back in a tie game. It was a crucial turnaround, to say the least.
Pierre said he was aware right away that the referees had missed a down.
“I told the referee about it and the side judge told the referee and he said, ‘keep playing,’” related Pierre. “He [the referee] actually also told one of my assistant coaches to be quiet.”
Meanwhile, on the fifth-down, fake-punt play on that sequence, Pierre said that the receiver did not earn a first down.
“They got the five downs and they were still short of a first down and the officials didn’t even measure it and they gave them a first down,” said Pierre. “To me, that raises a red flag.”
Pierre also vehemently disagreed with a non-call on a Central Catholic kickoff return for a touchdown just moments after Tyrese Baptiste had returned the opening kickoff 87 yards to the CC 2-yard line. Deshawn Weston scored the touchdown and Abraham Betancourth booted the PAT for a quick 7-0 lead.
“Their touchdown on the kickoff return should have come back,” said Pierre. “There was a block in the back and there was a blind-side hit right in front of the referee who didn’t make the call.”
Pierre also felt that a warning should have been given to the Central Catholic coaching staff for leaving their sidelines and going on the field of play to engage in discussions with the referees.
Pierre said he has sent a letter of protest about the officiating and the “five-down” sequence to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA).
“The better team did not win the game,” said Pierre. “The refs stole the game. We didn’t lose that game. They took it away from them.”
Ideally, Pierre would have been talking about a superlative performance by senior wide receiver Eli Auguste who had five receptions and a touchdown, including a spectacular diving catch on fourth down to continue an Everett drive. Playing in the final game of his outstanding career, Auguste also made a leaping interception in the corner of the end zone, miraculously staying inbounds on the play.
Duke Doherty completed an excellent junior season with 185 yards passing and several key runs. The quarterback draw on the crucial two-point conversion attempt (after Baptise had scored on a 3-yard run) appeared to be a terrific call and a success, but the referees ruled that Doherty hadn’t broken the plane of the end zone, thus ending Everett’s playoff hopes.
It was the second year in a row that Central Catholic defeated Everett in the North semifinals.