Motivated Everett team pumps up its game
Walking into Veterans Memorial Stadium illustrates the prominence and passion of the Everett High football program. There are monstrous, blood-red waves painted on the wall, and at game time the stands are lined with screaming fans decked in crimson. Football receives top billing.
That’s a lot of pressure on the players. But in Everett, that is the expectation. A three-loss campaign in 2009, culminating with a 29-0 defeat to Xaverian in the EMass. Division 1 Super Bowl, spelled a summer of deep thought for the Crimson Tide.
A crushing setback can be humbling. It would have been easy to look around the stadium and absorb the weight of the loss.
Instead, the Tide marched into the summer months determined to find redemption. And thus far, in a 2-0 start, the returns are impressive for a squad that is more physical, more mature, and ready to face the challenges of the season.
Everett coach John DiBiaso says that the change in attitude starts with the squad’s core leaders.
“I definitely see a difference,’’ said DiBiaso after last Saturday’s impressive 27-7 win over St. John’s Prep. “That change comes from the top. When your leaders are playing selfless football, the other kids take notice.’’
The players are following the lead of junior quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso, senior wide receiver Matt Costello, senior tailback Manny Asprilla, and junior back Vondell Langston, playmakers who carry the weight of the team on their shoulders.
“Our biggest goal coming off [the loss to Xaverian] was to get bigger, stronger, and faster,’’ said the younger DiBiaso, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound left-handed passer. “We were outmuscled and pushed around against the Catholic schools. So we dedicated ourselves all summer long, multiple days a week, to getting strong enough to play with any team in the state.’’
With improved size and blocking up front, DiBiaso, Costello, and Asprilla have been able to operate with precision and efficiency. Primarily succeeding through the air, Costello and Asprilla have used their speed to manipulate defenses. With plenty of time and an accurate arm, DiBiaso uses his quick teammates to pick apart opposing secondaries.
“We’re a young team that’s still getting used to the game,’’ said the younger DiBiaso. “But this year we’ve started learning how to make adjustments to get better every possession.’’
The spread, according to his father, is based on reads and adjustments at the line. And those reads and adjustments have become much smoother with more time in the system.
“The biggest difference from last year to now is this group’s maturity,’’ said the elder DiBiaso. “They prepared their minds and their bodies for this year. I see a lot of improvement both physically and mentally.’’
Those adjustments come as the team enters its second year in the spread offense. Inexperience led to a number of issues last season. But as the players start to get more comfortable in the system, the intelligence shows on the field.
“You look at last year, we only averaged about 14 points a game,’’ said Costello, who has narrowed his college choices to Harvard, Penn, and Princeton. “Now through two games we’re averaging about 35. We spent the summer working on our passing game and it shows.’’
“Getting used to one another, getting their reads down — it all takes time. But it’s coming with the game experience,’’ added coach DiBiaso.
Stronger, faster, and more mature, the players are well aware of the expectations — only this time they are perfectly confident they can carry the load.
“We play for a lot here — the school, the city, the people. With all of that, we had to learn to play for the team and not just ourselves,’’ said Asprilla, who has verbally committed to attend Boston College next fall. “This year, the attitude is much better. We go out and take one play at a time. We have more heart.’’
The Crimson Tide will host Barnstable on Saturday.
On Friday night, the Fishermen won their 16th straight game. The 36-0 shutout of Winthrop featured another spectacular display by Jordan Shairs. The 5-11, 190-pound back scored a pair of first-half touchdowns, raising his total to eight through three games.
Doug Saffir can be reached at email@example.com.