Billerica stuns Everett in overtime thriller

Jon Mahoney for ESPN

BILLERICA, Mass – His assistant coaches made all the right adjustments, his quarterback and star wide receiver made all the big plays, and the hard-nosed defense sealed the win, but the architect of Billerica’s incredible 24-21 overtime victory over Division 1 powerhouse Everett was none other than head coach Duane Sigsbury.

So, it was only fitting that “Sigs” took the reins of the postgame celebration by acting as conductor in front of the school marching band, waving his arm exuberantly as the horns played the Indians fight song.

“This is an unbelievable win,” Sigsbury said afterwards.

When asked about getting his Division 2 athletes to believe they could take down Everett, he claimed, “It was easy. These are hard-working kids who are ready to put their hard hats on and grab their sledgehammers and go to war every night. These kids are relentless. They don’t think they can lose, and that’s a special thing.”

Billerica (4-0) might have been ready for this non-conference home tilt, but that confidence wavered when Everett (2-2) raced out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

After utilizing a spread offense throughout most of their first three games, the Crimson Tide threw a wrench into Billerica’s defensive game plan by going to a Double-Wing, Double-Tight formation.

Running back Marvens Fedna (17 carries, 154 rushing yards, TD) broke a 37-yard touchdown run out of that formation and set up Everett’s second score with a 59-yard run out of the same look.

Meanwhile, the Indians failed to score on their first five drives, as the crowd began to quiet and a shadow of doubt might have crept into the players’ minds.

“We were kind of like a deer caught in headlights in that first quarter,” admitted Billerica captain Dean Brooks. “We’ve never played in a game like this before, but once we got comfortable we just played our game and turned it around.”

Brooks (13 receptions, 175 yards, 2 TDs) would spark the Indians offense by hauling in a 16-yard catch to convert a key third down, and eventually senior tailback Derek Laundry rumbled in for a touchdown to put the home team on the board right before halftime.

Receiving to begin the second half, the Indians wasted little time in their efforts to come back.

Senior quarterback Zach Burns (15-of-25, 208 passing yards, 2 TDs) completed his first nine attempts coming out of the locker room, including a 39-yard bomb to Brooks that tied the game at 14, and an 8-yard scoring strike to his favorite target to put the Indians up 21-14 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

“We had that connection freshman year and [Burns] wasn’t the starter last year, but now that he’s back at quarterback we’ve been able to use our experience and get that connection back,” said Brooks, who accounted for 175 of of the team’s 208 receiving yards on the night.

All of the momentum seemed to be on Billerica’s side, and the soggy field proved to serve as another obstacle for Everett, as Fedna twice slipped while trying to convert on fourth down.

Yet the Billerica coaching staff deserves plenty of credit for shoring up the defensive errors that cost them two touchdowns in the early going.

“Our coaching staff made a lot of great adjustments, especially defensively,” Sigsbury asserted. “We wanted to get into matchups that were favorable for our kids. They were able to hold their hat to the coaches’ adjustments, and it worked.”

But championship-caliber programs such as Everett don’t simply fold after a couple of bad series.

Crimson Tide quarterback Jordan McAfee dug deep and led his team on a 7-play, 77-yard scoring drive, capped by his own two-yard touchdown run to tie the contest at 21.

McAfee and his talented receivers had one more chance to win it in regulation, but the Indians formidable front seven came through.

Led by senior captain Henri Behaeghel and ESPNBoston all-state selection Scott Murphy, Billerica’s defense stopped the Crimson Tide in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime.

“We tried to stay focused as much as we could,” Burns said about the emotions in this rollercoaster affair. “Coach [Sigsbury] told us to stay calm and collected and we kept pushing. We knew we could do it.”

After the defense held strong and forced a missed field goal from Everett to begin overtime, Burns and Laundry simply ran the ball up the middle to set up their steady kicker. Jacob Carlson stepped up to attempt a 19-yard kick for a program-defining win, and his teammates maintained without exception that they knew the senior captain would be true.

After Carlson’s kick split the uprights, the Indians supporters rushed the field, and Sigsbury led his team in celebration, Burns told reporters, “This was the best game I’ve ever played in.”

Indeed, it was an instant classic between two premier programs, a gutsy comeback win from Billerica, and a picturesque way to conclude ESPNBoston’s coverage of high school sports.

Thank you all for reading, listening, and interacting with our staff. Just like tonight’s barnburner in Billerica, it was truly a great ride.