LYNN — Of course it was coming. Everett coach John DiBiaso had a better hand than he’s shown so far this season.
It only made sense that he pulled out his trump card for the playoffs, that Everett (10-1) would destroy a solid, 16th-ranked Masconomet squad, 42-14, and that everyone wearing red and gold Tuesday night would nod their heads and get a little closer to feeling satisfied.
They had to know this was coming.
Kenny Calaj made his triumphant return, scoring a 41-yard touchdown on a screen pass and giving Everett a powerful inside running game. The senior running back played his first game since aggravating an ankle injury in the Crimson Tide’s loss to Barnstable, 13-7, Sept. 28. The Red Raiders have held the top spot in Eastern Massachusetts since.
DiBiaso wouldn’t let his players say “the B-word” until it was official. Now it is.
No. 1 Barnstable will play No. 2 Everett in the Division 1A Super Bowl Saturday.
“We want them bad,” Calaj said. “Revenge all the way.”
Masconomet had a solid season, with senior Dylan Mann leading a powerful running attack and quarterback Chris Schleer operating efficiently in the red zone. But the Chieftains hadn’t played a team like Everett. Not this Everett.
Jakarrie Washington found the end zone on a 22-yard pass from Raheem Wingard just 45 seconds into the game. Wingard, a junior, was making his seventh start of the season at quarterback.
On their next possession, the Tide scored quickly again when Jalen Felix punched in a 6-yard run.
With Calaj and Joey White giving Everett a strong inside presence, it opened things up for Felix and Washington, the two speedsters, to get space outside and pose a home run threat.
“It’s a boost,” DiBiaso said of Calaj’s return. “We utilize everybody. The fact that we can run four or five different guys really helped.”
Everett might have been most impressive on defense. The Tide forced five turnovers, including a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by Gilly DeSouza, who has flourished on defense now that Wingard has taken over at QB. DeSouza can focus on reading the opposing QB’s eyes rather than the opposing defense.
And Wingard is looking comfortable under center.
“I feel like I grew up with these guys but I’ve never really been the starter with them until a few weeks ago,” he said. “We have it now. Hopefully we can carry it on to Saturday and get the W.”
Everett enters Saturday in unfamiliar territory this time of year. On paper, at least, the Tide are playing the role of underdogs. Calaj disagreed.
“No we are not the underdog,” he said. “Never in Everett. It’s not pressure, but we’re confident in our abilities and our team.”