What makes John DiBiaso one of the greatest football coaches in state history?
Over 37 years as the head coach at St. Patrick’s, Weston, Everett, and now Catholic Memorial, the 63-year-old coach has frequently found ways to make in-game adjustments that set his team up for success.
On Friday night, that meant abandoning the top-ranked Knights’ traditional spread offense and moving to a double-wing set, allowing host CM to control the tempo and outlast Springfield Central, 21-13, in a highly competitive affair at West Roxbury.
The victory moves DiBiaso (316-78-1 career record) into a tie with former Brockton legend Armond Colombo for the second-most wins in state history. Northbridge’s Ken LaChapelle has 362 wins.
“It’s an honor, because when I first started coaching, Armond Colombo was somebody everybody looked up to,” said DiBiaso. “He was somebody all the young coaches wanted to emulate.”
Springfield Central (1-2) took an early 7-0 lead when freshman quarterback William Watson hit a wide-open Justin Gabriel over the middle for a 66-yard touchdown.
Instead of looking to match Central’s aerial attack, the Knights went to their ground game, stringing together a 75-yard, 13-play scoring drive that concluded with senior quarterback Barrett Pratt (8-of-17 passing, 116 yards, INT; 7 carries, 31 yards, TD) diving in for a 1-yard score.
After the Golden Eagles botched a punt attempt deep in their own territory, Knights junior captain Owen McGowan plunged in for a 2-yard TD to make it 12-7 shortly before halftime.
McGowan, who carried 12 times for 48 yards and two touchdowns, made a tremendous impact on both sides of the ball. The Boston College commit produced a huge sack early in the third quarter, then hauled in a 38-yard reception, setting up his second rushing touchdown to put CM ahead, 21-13.
With senior tailback Darius LeClair (15 carries, 121 yards) and wingbacks Zach Mitchell and Shiloh White complementing McGowan in the double-wing formation, CM (3-0) was able to limit opportunities for a prolific Central offense.
“That’s a tremendously athletic team,” said DiBiaso. “They won every 7-on-7 tournament this summer, so we did not want to make it a 7-on-7 [contest]. By doing what we did, we were attempting to eliminate that.”
While numerous players battled cramps and other minor injuries, the Knights hung in to make big play after big play against the defending D3 state champions. Mitchell twice denied Central a potential game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter, and LeClair helped salt the game away with a key 35-yard run.
“The whole team hung in there,” said DiBiaso. “It was a war. Anybody that paid five dollars got their money’s worth.”
For McGowan, it’s easy to go to battle with a legend like “Dibs.”
“[DiBiaso’s] like no one else,” said McGowan. “Going into every game, I’m confident we’re going to win. Every game I know he’s going to find a way.”
Nate Weitzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.