EVERETT — In a matchup of defending Super Bowl champions, second-ranked Everett took down Springfield Central in an opening-week thriller, 31-23, on Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The Tide were led by senior transfer from Pope John, Joe D’Onofrio (17 rushes, 148 yards, one touchdown), but it was a safety late in the third quarter that was the turning point.
Central, which won the WMass Division 1 Super Bowl last season, had taken a 17-14 lead and senior Ju’an Williams had just intercepted Everett’s Raheem Wingard at the Springfield 6-yard line.
But on the first snap after the interception, Central quarterback Cody Williams was looking to the sideline when the ball was snapped. The ball rolled through the end zone, cutting Everett’s deficit to 17-16.
The Tide got the ball back after the safety kick at its 44-yard line. Wingard was taken down for a 4-yard loss on the first snap, but on the next play he launched a pass to junior wide receiver Michael Lopes, who caught the ball at the Springfield 20 and took it all the way untouched for a 60-yard score, putting the Tide ahead, 22-17.
Junior fullback Jonathan Freitas then pounded in a 2-point conversion.
Everett added to the lead at the start of the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide defense made a huge stop on fourth and 11 at their 20 and took over from there. D’Onofrio and Freitas teamed up to take the Tide to the 8-yard line. Senior Marquis Holman then ran it in to extend the advantage to, 31-17.
Central came right back, though, taking just under two minutes to go 76 yards. Cody Williams found senior wideout Malik Johnson for a 35-yard bomb. Ju’an Williams’s extra-point attempt was no good, leaving the Golden Eagles’ deficit at 8 with 5:33 to go.
They wouldn’t get the ball back, though, as the Tide ran down the clock with rush after rush. Everett faced a third and 19 with just over two minutes to go, but a defensive holding call gave them an automatic first down, essentially ending the game.
Everett got on the board first, 37 seconds into the second quarter, when Wingard found senior C.J. Parvelus for a 5-yard score. Parvelus, a star linebacker, was lined up at tight end.
The Golden Eagles tied the score when Cody Williams found Tysean Williams for a 6-yard strike.
D’Onofrio’s score came four minutes later when he cut up the middle for a 19-yard touchdown to put Everett ahead, 14-7.
Everett senior Josh Palmer sacked Cody Williams on the ensuing drive, forcing a fumble, but it was called back on a defensive holding. Ju’an Williams then kicked a 35-yard field goal on the next play, closing the first half.
Everett will host 13th-ranked Xaverian next Friday night.