EVERETT, Mass. -- On Homecoming Day last year, the Crimson Tide were shut out during an emphatic 24-0 defeat at the hands of Central Catholic.
If that loss characterized their disappointing 2015 season, then Everett’s 35-14 win over St. John’s Prep on Homecoming Day this year might just wind up exemplifying a bounce back 2016 campaign.
Everett (2-1) simply dominated the visiting Eagles (1-2) in all three phases of the game.
With senior defensive linemen Duval Paul and Gerell Boyce leading the way, the Crimson Tide erased the Eagles ground game and forced consecutive three-and-outs to begin the first quarter.
On the second St. John’s Prep punt, Mike Sainristil initiated a return from his own five-yard line that might have given his coaches some anxiety. Yet the sophomore was able to weave through traffic, pick up some key blocks, and burst down the sideline for a 95-yard touchdown return to open the scoring.
“I thought the punt return was the play that turned the game around to be honest,” said Everett head coach John DiBiaso. “There was nothing going on at the time and we would’ve started around the five-yard line, but [Sainristil] made a nice play, everybody blocked and that seemed to be the turning point.”
A few minutes later, Everett’s defense provided another key play that allowed them to grab a stranglehold on the momentum.
The Eagles were driving in an effort to tie the game when Crimson Tide captain Carlins Platel jumped in front of star wide receiver Hayden Rockett (6 receptions, 95 yards) for an interception.
Miscommunication between Yarin in Rockett leads to an INT by Tide Capt. Carlins Platel pic.twitter.com/46Q1evaS2S— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) September 24, 2016
Senior quarterback Jordan McAfee wasted little time in making Prep pay for that mistake, as he hit junior Anthony Norcia for a 25-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 midway through the second quarter.
Norcia (4 catches, 65 yards, TD), Sainristil (5 catches, 80 yards, 3 total TDs) and junior Jason Maitre (4 catches, 18 yards) accounted for all of Everett’s receiving production on the afternoon.
With this talented young trio creating plenty of separation, McAfee was able to complete 12 of his 13 pass attempts and lead his team to a touchdown on five consecutive possessions after they punted on their first series.
“They’re unbelievable,” McAfee said in praise of his wide receivers. “They’ve got great speed, great hands and we’ve never really had a corps of wide receivers like them as long as I’ve been here. I started to feel more comfortable as the game went along because my offensive line did a great job with protection and my receivers got open, so it was easy to get them the ball.”
Everett’s offense held up its end of the bargain, but the defense deserves just as much credit for stiffening every time the Eagles threatened.
When St. John’s Prep opened the second half with a methodical 11-play drive that went deep into Crimson Tide territory, senior captain Duval Paul came up with a huge sack on third down to hand the ball back to his offense.
More pressure from Duval Paul and company. Yarin sacked and Prep turns it over on downs next play pic.twitter.com/v74On4mMvP— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) September 24, 2016
Once they were in possession, the Crimson Tide wasted little time in putting the seal on this win, as big running back Chris Jenkins exploded off the edge for an 83-yard score on the first play from scrimmage to put the game beyond reach at 28-0.
“Our defense kept [The Eagles] off the board and gave us some more chances to get on a roll,” confirmed DiBiaso.
Now that they’re on a roll, the Crimson Tide should be ready to cap off a brutal September schedule with a road test at No. 5 Billerica next Friday.
“This win gives us a lot of confidence going into Billerica,” DiBiasio added. “We expect a war on Friday night. They’re one of the top teams in the state, and we’re going into their house, so it should be great game.”