WESTWOOD, Mass. -- It all started with a leap -- a giant one, at that.
Facing first and 10 from the Xaverian 31, trailing 7-6 at the Hawk Bowl with just over 10 minutes left in regulation, Everett's Manny Asprilla darted down the left hash marks, cut across the middle on a post route, and leaped high past two defenders to come down with the jump ball.
"When I jumped in the air, I wasn't thinking about getting laid out, I just wanted to take one for the team," Asprilla said.
Vondell Langston gave the Crimson Tide the go-ahead score two plays later, a plunge from four yards out, and Asprilla made another eye-opening grab on the point-after, slipping just inbounds at the left sideline on to complete Jonathan DiBiaso's pass attempt and make it 14-7.
A fumble on the ensuing kickoff, recovered by Everett's Ronnie Richard, gave the Tide starting position at the Hawks' 27, and it didn't take long for the Boston College-bound Asprilla to show off his stuff again. On fourth and 10 from the 17, DiBiaso went over the middle again to Asprilla, and he shed an arm tackle as he dove over the goal line. A few plays later, Asprilla slammed things shut with an Ed Reed-style pick-six, bobbing and weaving in and out of blocks 48 yards to paydirt.
"That drive was the biggest drive of the season," head coach John DiBiaso said of Langston's score. "We responded, we scored, then we get the turnover, the fumble, we punched it in again, and now all of a sudden they're two touchdowns down and they've got to come from behind. Their gameplan was not designed to come from behind, it was the grind it out."
In just over three minutes, the 5-foot-10, 165-pound senior sent the crowd from a frenzy to heading for the exits. And with it, the speedster proved once again what five other teams had previously discovered -- once the wagon gets momentum, even the state's best teams will struggle to slow the game back to a crawl. Whatever critiques one may have had with this deceivingly-balanced Tide squad came to a screeching halt in a relatively short amount of time.
"Fourth quarter is everything," Asprilla said. "Anything can happen in the fourth quarter. So when we came out, we definitely wanted to put points on the board and shut things down on their offense."
Asprilla (five catches, 80 yards) typically gets his touches in the short to medium passing game and motion out of the backfield, but with deep ball threat Matt Costello (three catches, 67 yards) bottled up nicely by Joe Colton and the Hawks showing cover four, the Tide pushed the seams. With an arsenal of targets split wide -- including Asprilla, Costello, Kenny Calaj and Jakarrie Washington -- Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson's game plan called for the defense to line up in quarters.
In essence, that left the Hawks defense playing man-to-man, with a safety and linebacker shading over the top, and John DiBiaso did his best to isolate his athletes in space. At the end of the day, it was Asrpilla reaping the most benefits, showing off his blazing 4.5 speed and why he'll make a very nice fit next fall at BC, offense or defense.
"We were playing quarters," Stevenson said. "We tried to pressure the quarterback, but we obviously didn’t go a good enough job doing that."
He added, "You know what you’re getting with them, but they’re tough to defend. They have a lot of athletes they can spread the ball around to."