FOXBOROUGH — “Bend but don’t break” is a popular phrase in the football coach lexicon. Among those roaming the Everett sideline however, “bending” isn’t exactly a familiar concept; the Crimson brass prefers pure, unadulterated dominance, and that’s generally what it receives.
Saturday’s Division 1 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium wasn’t the breeze Everett coach John DiBiaso had hoped for. Midway through the third quarter, the Crimson Tide led, 21-10, but Xaverian was inside the Everett 5 and tensions festered among the Crimson faithful.
But the young men in red, white, and gold didn’t break.
Everett’s 11 kept the Hawks out of the end zone, pressuring quarterback Davin Sweeney on fourth and goal from the 2 and prompting an incomplete pass that sailed over the hands of intended target Brian Abraham.
As it so often does, good defense bred good offense. On the next play, senior running back Kevin Brown broke free down the right sideline for a backbreaking 98-yard touchdown run to give Everett an 18-point advantage.
“Coach told us, he said, ‘Hey, you have to get us out of the end zone,’ ” Brown recounted. “I said, ‘Hey Coach, I got you.’ ”
From there, the Crimson (11-0) rolled, downing their Catholic Conference foes, 35-10, to clinch their second straight Division 1 title and the 12th in DiBiaso’s illustrious tenure.
Basking in the glory of one of the most dominant seasons in program history, DiBiaso intimated it may have been his final game at the head of the Everett program.
“I’m very blessed,” he reflected. “[I’m] on the 18th hole going into the clubhouse, so this meant a lot.”
DiBiaso’s best squads have been predicated on swarming defense. Safety Lewis Cine made sure the most recent iteration of Crimson defenders fell in line.
“Me and Mikey [Sainristil] knew that something like that was coming,” Cine said referring to the pivotal fourth-down play. “We had to play it safe. When the cross came, my first instinct was to hit him and get him off his route. Then they just threw the ball and he wasn’t there to catch it.”
Things began disastrously for Xaverian (7-5) as Sweeney’s pass to the right sideline was jumped by Sainristil and returned 43 yards for a 7-0 Everett lead.
The Hawks’ ensuing possession was again terminated by superior play from a menacing Crimson defense, Cine fell on a fumble to give the Everett offense its first action of the night. The unit didn’t disappoint, marching down the field with authority as Sainristil capped the effort on a 3-yard sweep for a two-touchdown advantage.
Xaverian didn’t blink, sticking to a game-plan centered around the running prowess of Ike Irabor (14 carries, 97 yards, one touchdown), Michael Saliba, and Michael Masse. For a stretch, the strategy worked, Irabor scurrying toward the right pylon for a 15-yard score midway through the second quarter.
But the hole Xaverian had dug itself in the first quarter was too deep.
Everett took just over 90 seconds to strike following the break, senior receiver Anthony Norcia shedding his man with a perfectly executed double move off the line of scrimmage and reeling in a 28-yard fade from quarterback Jake Willcox for the 21-10 lead.
Norcia was the focal point of the Everett attack, with nine receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown.
Willcox capped a brilliant season with 185 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-25 passing. The junior summed up the camaraderie that made Everett’s magical run possible.
“There’s not a better feeling than winning a Super Bowl with all of my best friends,” Willcox said. “The dudes I love going out there and just giving it their all.”
at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
E — Mike Saintristil 43 interception return (Caio Costa kick)
E — Mike Saintristil 3 run (Caio Costa kick)
X — Ike Irabor 15 run (Brian Fallon kick)
X — Brian Fallon 20 field goal
E — Anthony Norcia 28 pass from Jake Willcox (Caio Costa kick)
E — Kevin Brown 98 run (Caio Costa kick)
E — Isaiah Likely 14 pass from Jake Willcox (Caio Costa kick)
RUSHING — E, Kevin Brown 3-126, Jake Willcox 5-39, Jason Maitre 1-20, Mike Saintristil 3-8, Jacob Miller 3-4; X, Ike Irabor 14-97, Cooper DeVeau 3-70, Michael Saliba 14-43, Davin Sweeney 4-20, Matty Drouillard 2-11
PASSING — E, Jake Willcox 14-25--185; X, Davin Sweeney 3-8-1-70
RECEIVING — E, Anthony Norcia 9-124, Isaiah Likely 2-29, Jalen Smith 1-7