EVERETT, Mass. –- It’s always a numbers game against No. 1 Everett’s offense.
Stack the box and Jonathan DiBiaso will pick apart a secondary. Slip too many people into coverage and Vondell Langston is equally adept at gashing a defense.
Either way, there’s no simple solution and, as the Crimson Tide showed in their 35-21 win over No. 3 BC High on Saturday afternoon, maybe there’s simply too much to stop.
“We know that if they play one side, they’re bound to leave the other side open,” Crimson Tide wide receiver Jalen Felix said. “So I feel as though they can’t cover all of us.
“There’s 11 men on both sides, but they can’t cover all of us.”
Everett (7-0) played the role of aggressor from the game’s onset recovering an onside kick to start the game. Five plays later, the Crimson Tide had an instant 7-0 lead with Vondell Langston’s first of two rushing scores. Along with two rushing touchdowns by quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso, Everett took a 28-14 lead to the half.
It didn’t matter much how they drew it up, the Crimson Tide kept the Eagles (4-3) guessing. Langston turned in his second straight game going over 100 yards (20 carries, 102 yards) while DiBiaso settled into a groove with the passing game (14 of 28, 252 yards, TD) and creating additional offense with his 52 rushing yards.
"If there's five guys in the box, we run,” Everett head coach John DiBiaso said. “If there's seven, we pass. The whole first half, I think there was five in the box. So that means that we've got five blockers on five defenders, so we're going to run the ball and we did. Second half, they came out with six.”
After moving the BC High defenders up into the box, that gave DiBiaso the space to continue his assault on the state’s career touchdown record. The left-handed signal-caller is now three off of Tommy Colombo’s record after a 64-yard connection with Jaylen McRae in the third quarter.
Still, the Eagles were not without their own offensive highlights. Eagles quarterback Bartley Regan also dialed up two touchdown connections of greater than 60 yards with a 72-yard hitch-and-go to Lincoln Collins and a 60-yard bomb caught in stride by Yosa Nosamiefan.
In addition, running back Preston Cooper, the reigning Catholic Conference MVP, was elusive again with 15 carries for 161 yards including a dazzling 58-yard touchdown run in the third.
However, Cooper likely played in his last high school game after suffering a dislocated ankle with less than a minute to play in the third quarter. On the drive following his touchdown run, Cooper was cut down on a tackle in between the hash marks. An audible cry for help underlined the severity of the injury.
"It's a big loss losing Preston," Eagles head coach Jon Bartlett said. "He's one of the top players in the state, if not the top running back in the state."
A STAR IS BORN?
The talent Everett enjoyed with receiving duo of Manny Asprilla and Matt Costello last season is about as common a find as Haley’s comet, but the Crimson Tide have plenty of horses in the stable this year with juniors Kenny Calaj, Jakarrie Washington and Jalen Felix.
Felix’s play was downright electric on the second quarter drive that resulted in DiBiaso’s second rushing touchdown. The 6-foot, 180-pounder added 57 receiving yards on two of the most amazing catches you’ll ever encounter.
The highlight was Felix’s 18-yard reception to set Everett up with a first goal at the BC High 4-yard line. On the play, Felix lost his balance and was hurdling toward the turf with tight coverage provided by the Eagles’ corner. No problem. Felix simply made a one-handed grab with his back to the ground with the defender in his back pocket.
“I just slipped,” Felix said. “I was just thinking, I have to catch this ball.”
Felix acknowledged that no one player, even in the talented cache of weapons DiBiaso has at his fingertips, is greater than the sum of the whole.
“If I make a good play, it’s because of my teammates,” Felix said. “It’s not because of me., it’s because they did their jobs that I had the opportunity to do mine and vice versa.”
Even their coach was in awe.
“I think you saw some of the finest plays you’ll ever see in a high school football game today,” DiBiaso added.
… WITH THAT SAID
The Eagles actually did a fair job of slowing down the Tide in pass coverage. Gordon McLeod came away with an interception while Nosamiefan and Deontae Ramey-Doe each had two passes defensed.
BC High also had spurts of pressure put on DiBiaso with a Jameson McShea tallying a sack and Luke Catarius single-handedly blowing up a couple of running plays in the backfield.
It just wasn’t quite enough to hold in the end.
“Our DBs played well,” Bartlett said. “We challenged them and they rose to the occasion.”
You could practically hard a pin drop when Cooper went to the turf following his grizzly injury (save for some nimrods who celebrated the injury in an utterly tasteless and classless display from the sideline). But more than Cooper’s absence, the play provided yet another negative shift of momentum for the Eagles.
“There were a few plays that we hurt ourselves,” Bartlett said. “I give a lot of credit to Everett and they’re a good team, but there were a number of times where we shot ourselves in the foot.”
There were interceptions by Felix and corner Gilly DeSouza, in addition to a fumble recovery by DeSouza. There were also a pair of roughing the kicker penalties, which extended Everett drives in the second half.
It all left the Eagles asking what if?
DiBiaso said he was sickened by the injury to Cooper and the reaction of a few in attendance. He also laid heavy praise on the wounded Eagle, comparing Cooper to some of the Crimson Tide’s best.
“We’ve had guys like Isaac Johnson and Diamond Ferri in the past, he’s right up there with those guys.
“They were just trying to let him pick his way. He’s a talented running back. If you overplay, he cuts it back. Then you think he’s going to cut back and he takes it out wide.”
BC High (4-3) 7 7 7 0 -- 21
Everett (7-0) 14 14 7 0 -- 35
E - Vondell Langston 12-yard run (Gilly DeSouza kick)
BC - Lincoln Collins 72-yard pass from Bartley Regan (Jackson Bockhurst kick)
E - Langston 3-yard run (DeSouza kick)
E - Jonathan DiBiaso 2-yard run (DeSouza kick)
E - DiBiaso 4-yard run (Gilly DeSouza kick)
BC - Yosa Nosamiefan 60-yard pass from Regan (Bockhurst kick)
BC - Preston Cooper 58-yard run (Bockhurst kick)
E - Jaylen McRae 64-yard pass from DiBiaso (Gilly DeSouza kick)