By Cary Shuman
The matchup of the state’s top two ranked teams, No. 1 Xaverian and No. 2 Everett, lived up to its advanced billing.
And when Everett quarterback Jordan McAfee connected with Anthony Norcia on a 56-yard pass play late in the fourth quarter to give the Crimson Tide a first-and-10 at the Xaverian 14-yard line, all signs pointed to the Tide scoring the winning touchdown or kicking a game-tying field goal to force an overtime.
But the Xaverian denied the Everett offense on two passes before Hawks’ linebacker Colin Lama made an interception at the 5-yard line to hand the Tide a tough 17-14 defeat Saturday at the Hawk Bowl in Westwood.
Everett had started the day in impressive fashion with McAfee finding a wide-open Norica behind the Xaverian secondary for a 75-yard touchdown. Gabrel DeSouza booted the PAT to make it 7-0.
Xaverian scored two touchdowns in the second quarter and added a field goal in the fourth quarter to make it 17-7.
Everett junior Jason Maitre took the ensuing kickoff two yards deep in the end zone and returned the football 102 yards for a touchdown. DeSouza hit his second PAT to close the gap to 17-14.
Following another strong punt by Xaverian, Everett’s final drive began at its own 3-yard line. Marvens Fedna converted on a fourth-and-2 play before the McAfee-Norcia combo clicked for a 56-yard gain. But Xaverian’s Lama ended the Tide’s hopes for a victory with a big defensive play.
Xaverian coach Charlie Stevenson called it “a great high school football game.”
“They [Everett] were a little better at making some big plays than we were – they had a big kickoff return and two big pass plays,” said Stevenson. “It really boiled down to just us making the big interception at the end of the game. They’re a really solid football team, very physical, very fast, very athletic. I was happy we were able to hang in there at the end and hopefully we can get better from here and move forward.”
Everett head coach John DiBiaso, whose team just showed its mettle with its fourth-quarter rally, came very close to ending Xaverian’s 24-game winning streak. Three points separated what the Xaverian public address announced told the large crowd, “The two best high school teams in Massachusetts.”
“Xaverian is a good team and you have to execute against good teams and we can’t make mistakes – we just made too many mistakes.” said DiBiaso.
The potential game-winning pass from McAfee to 6-foot-6-inch Theo Zidor looked good when it left McAfee’s hand, but Xaverian cornerback Mekhi Anderson made a nice play to break up the pass.
Jason Maitre had the “play of the day” with an electrifying 102-yard kickoff return. Maitre found the seam in the middle of the field and outraced Xaverian’s special teams’ players to the end zone.
Defensive tackles Duval Paul and Weaverson Ulysses were immense for the Tide. “I though they played really well and our free safety Lewis Cine played really well,” said DiBiaso. “Offensively, I thought Norcia had a bg game for us.”
UConn-bound Jordan McAfee was 6-for-15 for 149 yards passing. The 6-foot-4-inch quarterback showed his poise while locating Norcia for the opening touchdown. McAfee had a long run for a touchdown that was nullified by a tough call against the Tide.
Supt. of Schools Frederick Foresteire, impeccably dressed as usual, was on hand for the season opener at Xaverian. Mr. Foresteire is expecting a large for the Tide’s home opener Friday night against New Bedford.
Despite the loss, Everett retained its No. 2 ranking in the state behind Xaverian. How great would it be to see these two football powerhouse programs meet at Gillette Stadium on the first Saturday in December?