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After fine-tuning, No. 3 Everett polished

In a city where the school's football team is expected to run the gauntlet unscathed, year in and year out, three losses in a year is virtually an anomaly.

Yet, with the new blend of athletic skill players coming up to the ranks that commanded a changing of the guard, that's what happened at Everett High, the lumps of such a dramatic transition in offensive philosophy came at an unexpected rate. Early on in 2009, the Crimson Tide suffered their worst regular-season loss since the early 1990's, a 47-14 drubbing by Dracut, with interception after interception yielding to an avalanche of points.

That's all in the past, though. The Tide have looked steady so far leading up to tonight's season-opening clash in Leominster.

"Offensively, I think we're looking real good," said senior wide receiver Matt Costello. "Last year, as I said, it was more of a growing season, and our connection is starting to click. Our offensive line's getting better…defensively, we're coming in with a different mindset, more of speed defense. We get to the ball and rally on the ball. Our defense needs a little refining, but it's still early."

Jonathan DiBiaso, son of head coach John, looks polished headed in his junior season, his third under center. The long, sometimes Leftwich-like release has been tightened up, not to mention he's grown a bit since last December.

"He's had two good scrimmages, so I don't want to jinx anything," the elder DiBiaso laughed. "There's a big difference from being 15

years old, 155 pounds, to now you're 16 and 190, 195, and you look more like a man, know what I'm saying?"

Between deep-ball threat Matt Costello, athlete Manny Asprilla and workhorse junior running back Vondell Langston, there has been plenty to like about the Tide's offense in year two of the spread. In two scrimmages, they've scored five times each. Certainly, another year in the offense hasn't hurt.

"I think it means a lot. We're on the same page on alot of things," the elder DiBiaso said. "Making the reads on pass routes, picking up blitzes, we experienced that last year, and this year we've been a little more more experienced when teams have tried to do it in the preseason. We've had success against it, we've run alot of good routes, option routes, when do this gotta do that, guys are going to the right spots and making plays out of it."

EVERETT AT A GLANCE

2009: 8-3 (4-0 Greater Boston), lost in Division 1 Super Bowl

Coach: John DiBiaso (18th season at Everett, 226-63-1 overall)

Players to watch: Matt Costello, Sr., WR/DB, 6-1, 165 lbs; Manny Asprilla, Sr., RB/WR/DB, 6-0, 170 lbs; Jonathan DiBiaso, Jr., QB, 6-1, 195 lbs; Vondell Langston, Jr., RB/LB, 6-1, 200 lbs; Shaquille Taylor, Sr., OL/DL, 5-11, 270 lbs; Ralph Jonathas, Sr., OL/DL, 6-2, 195 lbs; Nick Chiarello, Sr., C/DL, 5-10, 205 lbs.

Strengths: Skill position players, experience, familiarity with offensive system.

Weaknesses: Youth on offensive and defensive lines.

Outlook: The Crimson Tide have lost just five regular season games over the last 10 seasons. So 2009's 8-3 campaign, to say the least, was an anomaly for what is typically one of the state's four or five best teams. By the looks of the preseason, the Tide have so far overcome the growing pains of transitioning to a spread from the double wing-T that dogged them last fall. Costello is one of the state's best deep-ball threats, and could have an even bigger year if DiBiaso's improved mechanics hold up -- "They've been trying to blitz him and they haven't had much success," says the elder DiBiaso. Asprilla and Langston, who combined for nearly 1,700 yards last season, will once again share the load in the backfield. Defensively, speed is key in what figures to be a youth movement.