EVERETT, Mass. -- It’s a true sign that it’s almost football season when teams get out of the monotony of double-session practices and start getting to hit players from other teams.
Such was the case Saturday night at Everett Memorial Stadium, where the Crimson Tide started its quest towards another Super Bowl against Lynn English.
Were there ups and downs for both teams? Sure. However, Everett showed why it is ranked No. 1 in the preseason Top 25 poll, behind dominant line play on both sides of the ball and disruptive linebacker pressure that made it difficult for the Lynn English offense to get in a groove.
When the offensive line, anchored by Notre Dame commit John Montelus, wasn’t creating holes for Joey White and Lukas Denis, it was buying time for junior quarterback Pat Long to hit Jakarrie Washington on long passes, which he did three times in the scrimmage.
“I thought we did well,” said Everett coach John DiBiaso. “We didn’t have Kenny (Calaj) because we were resting him. For the first scrimmage, I thought both our quarterbacks (Denis and Long) did pretty good. We know the offensive line is going to be good, and we need to tighten up our defense, but overall I was happy.”
English coach Peter Holey echoed Dibiaso’s sentiments, knowing his team will see Everett again when they scrimmage on Tuesday.
“We’re going to take a look at the film,” he said. “But I was happy with our athleticism. Obviously they are an outstanding team, that’s why we love scrimmaging them: it only makes us better. My overall impression is that we’re going to be pretty good, but we do have some work to do, and I expect to be a better team on Tuesday night.”
Other observations from the scrimmage:
QB Battle, Pt. 1: Everett is still looking for a quarterback to replace the record-setting Jonathan Dibiaso. Both Pat Long and Lukas Denis got equal reps at the position Saturday. It was hard to tell if one of them separated himself from the other because Denis was as effective on the ground as Long was through the air.
Long threw two long touchdown passes to Washington down the left sideline, one from 35 yards out. Washington got his defender to bite on a double move, allowing him to get ahead a few strides to make the catch on the run.
Later, Long hit Washington on a corner route in the end zone after he was left uncovered.
The elder DiBiaso is in no rush to make a decision on who will start.
“I’d like to see them all,” he said. “We have three scrimmages, and we’re going to give them both opportunities in the three scrimmages. Every day in practice, I evaluate them. I’m not averse to using them both over the course of the game either, if they’re both doing well. I thought both of them played well tonight, but both of them also made some mistakes. But they didn’t protect the ball, and they didn’t turn it over, so that’s important.”
QB Battle, Pt. 2: English has a quarterback competition of its own, trying to find a replacement for Jermaine Kelly, who last year helped the team make the state playoffs, where it was ousted by Everett.
Throughout the scrimmage Saturday, Holey was giving three players equal opportunity to show themselves and make themselves the frontrunner for the job.
D.J. Mullen, a transfer from Augustine High School in Florida, made a few nice throws that would be tough for any quarterback to make. During his team’s third possession of the night, he took the shotgun snap and was under heavy pressure from the Everett rush. He ran left towards the sideline, and when all his momentum was taking him away from the play, floated a pass to a receiver in bounds for a big gain.
Two plays later, he stayed in the pocket long enough to see a receiver streaking down the left sideline, and hit him in stride.
This series caused Holey to leave Mullen in longer to see what he could do, but after the game, he was not ready to commit to any one player.
“We have three quarterbacks that we believe can start for us,” he said. “All three have been told that they’ll be given an equal opportunity to start. I feel comfortable with all three, but we’ll go with one quarterback. What separates them, to me, is the ability to run the ball. That is a critical part of our offense. I feel all three players can start for us, which is a good problem to have. We’ll settle on one quarterback by the time we scrimmage St. John’s Prep on Friday.”
Hogs live up to hype: Everett’s line play came as advertised. The offensive line, arguably one of the biggest in the state, handled the English defense most of the night. The tackles’ strength and agility made it difficult for the defensive line to get around and for it to collapse the pocket.
“They played great,” said DiBiaso. “If they play like that all year, we’re going to get a lot of yards.”
On the other side of the ball, Everett seemed to be getting pressure whenever it decided to bring an extra rusher off the edge. The English offensive line could block the four lineman, but it was that extra body that went unaccounted for that made life difficult for the quarterbacks.
“They played hard, but we were missing Kenny, who is probably our best linebacker,” DiBiaso said. “We really didn’t play Jalen Felix and Jakarrie (Washington) on defense. We wanted to see other kids. Hopefully we can get our full defense ready for Leominster.”
Growing pains: English had trouble defending Everett’s screen passes and swing passes to the running backs in the flat. Often, the defensive backs and linebackers would follow receivers up the field, allowing the backs to get out in the open field for big gains. That is one problem Holey believes can be corrected before the real games start in early September.
“I expect that to be better,” he said. “We pattern read, and obviously there were mistakes. The kids weren’t reading their patterns correctly, and the corner wasn’t dropping off and covering the flat, and that’s something that we’ll see on film over the next couple of days. I was very disappointed.”