By Eric Russo
EVERETT - It's that time of the year when players can see their breath. They put sweatpants over their pads to stay warm. The coaches are wearing winter hats and heavy jackets. The stadium lights come on at 4 o'clock.
All those things mean the football playoffs are right around the corner.
"Win the game [against Malden], we're in," said Everett coach John DiBiaso. "That's what we're looking forward to. We're getting guys back healthy. We played well offensively the last two weeks. We want to continue minimizing the mistakes. We're trying to improve every week."
The second-ranked Crimson Tide (8-1, 3-0) have a chance to clinch their 18th straight Greater Boston League title Friday night with a win against Malden (2-7, 1-1).
"[Malden's] our rival," said senior offensive lineman Pat Sullivan. "It's always an intense game. We gotta get emotionally ready for [the seniors] last home game at Everett Stadium. It's gonna be hard but we'll get through it. It's the same as always, beat the GBL teams and get to the playoffs."
However, while a league title would be nice, in Everett, they have much loftier goals.
"We want more," said Sullivan. "We're taking it one game at a time though. I don't even want to talk about who we might face in the Super Bowl, but we'll be ready."
If the Tide win Friday night, they would be headed for a matchup with the winner of the CAL/NEC (Division 1) in the first round of the Division 1A playoffs. Masconomet (3-0) currently leads the CAL/NEC, with Revere (2-1), just one game behind. Those two teams also play each other Friday.
The first round of the playoffs will be November 27, meaning that because Everett does not play on Thanksgiving, they would have 17 days in between games.
"We gotta win Friday night first," said DiBiaso. "But we'll give them a couple days of downtime. Next week we're gonna give them Monday and Tuesday off."
The Tide will be getting a huge boost Friday night when their best all-around playmaker, Kenny Calaj, returns to the lineup.
"Oh, yeah," said DiBiaso, on whether the senior would play against Malden. "Kenny's back. He's running full speed."
The running back/wide receiver/defensive back looked great Tuesday, bursting through holes without any sign of the ankle injury that has plagued him all season.
Calaj has played in only two games after suffering the injury in the preseason. He missed the first two weeks of the year, before returning to play against St. Johnís Prep - when he contributed a rushing touchdown - and Barnstable in Weeks 3 and 4. He was re-injured in the Tide's overtime loss to the Red Raiders and has not played since.
"It's been frustrating, kind of disappointing," said Calaj. "You try to play your senior season, but I had an injury. Now I feel good. I'm definitely excited to be back."
Last year, Calaj was sixth in Division 1A in scoring with 88 points (14 TD, two 2-point conversions) and tied for second in touchdown receptions with nine, trailing only teammate Jaylen McRae who had 10.
With it being Election Day, Calaj said he did not get the chance to go out and vote, but said he would have voted for President Obama because, "he's for the middle class, all day." Sullivan, who is not yet eligible to vote, said he would have also chosen Obama because he believes that if he's re-elected he would keep college costs low.
This Saturday is the big prep-school matchup between Phillips Exeter (6-0) and Phillips Andover (2-4). DiBiaso, an Exeter grad, will be making the trek to Andover if his son Jonathan is ready to play.
Jonathan, who graduated from Everett High in June and will attend Dartmouth College next fall, separated his shoulder earlier this season. He is expected to try and practice this week to determine if he can play in the big game.
"I don't know if he's playing," coach DiBiaso said. "I know he's been miserable because he's been hurt. He was supposed to try and practice yesterday and try to practice today. We'll see. If he plays, I'm gonna definitely go."
Jonathan is the stateís all-time leader in both career (103) and single-season (44) touchdown passes.
Coach DiBiaso and the rest of the GBL coaches and athletic directors have yet to meet to discuss how they will pick the league's two playoff teams when the MIAA switches to the new format next season. He said they are expected to meet Thursday morning.
Every week we'll have a captain or senior make a Patriots prediction for the upcoming game.
THIS WEEK'S PICK - BILLS at PATRIOTS
Senior OL Pat Sullivan has the Patriots coming out of the bye week with a 27-17 win.
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our fall correspondents:
- Anthony Gulizia | @gulizia_a | Div. 1 football
- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Div. 4 football
- Greg Joyce | @GJoyce9 | Div. 5 football
- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls volleyball
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail email@example.com.