EVERETT -- For the first time in 31 years, John DiBiaso won’t be on the sidelines coaching a football game Thanksgiving morning.
The Crimson Tide will be one of a handful of teams in the state not putting on the pads Thursday, after Cambridge decided to end the Thanksgiving Day matchup with Everett after last season.
DiBiaso said he’s not sure what it will feel like on Thursday, to wake up and not have to prepare for a game.
“I don’t know [what it’s like],” said DiBiaso. “I’ll see when I wake up in the morning. It’s something that since [I was] a little kid ... I’ve gone to the Everett games, went to the Chelsea games when my father coached there.”
The last time DiBiaso did not coach on Thanksgiving morning was in 1981.
“I was coaching at Tufts and they didn’t play on Thanksgiving. I actually think I went and saw my brother play,” he said.
DiBiaso won’t be totally free of football on Thursday, however. He’s headed to scout his team’s first round playoff opponent, Masconomet, when they take on North Andover.
“I’m going scouting,” said DiBiaso. “But it’s not the same.”
The Tide will take the field again next Tuesday night, when they face off against the Chieftains (8-2, 4-0), who won the CAL/NEC (Division 1) title.
It will be the first time that Everett faces Masco, meaning there is a lot of unfamiliarity.
“[Our] first time playing Masco,” said DiBiaso. “I know little to nothing about them. But I do know they’re well-coached and disciplined. They’re not in our league. I’m definitely going to scout them. But I think they’re in the same boat as us. They don’t know much about us. We don’t know much about them.”
The Tide will have something to play for this week, as they look to win their second straight Turkey Toss competition early on Wednesday morning.
The event, put on by Kiss 108, features 10 pairs of high school football players -- and a pair of girls from Ursuline Academy -- from across the state, trying to see who can toss, and catch, a 15-20 pound turkey the furthest distance.
Tide center Reardan Sweeney has the all-important job of catching the bird and says he’s been practicing for the last couple of weeks, with the help of Everett High boys’ hockey coach, Alex Naumann.
“I am catching at the Turkey Toss,” he said. “We’ve been going down to the Meadow Glen Mall parking lot, practicing for about two weeks now, throwing some turkeys and catching some turkeys. This is my Thanksgiving championship right here.”
Everett has not played since Nov. 10, which has left the Tide with a lot of down time leading into the playoffs. But DiBiaso says he thinks he has found a “happy medium” by not practicing too much or too little.
“We have not overpracticed, but we haven’t underpracticed,” he said. “We’ve given them some time to heal up. We’ve practiced enough to stay sharp, but not too much that we burn ourselves out.”
Sweeney said that while the team may not have practiced as much on the field the last couple of the weeks, everyone has been working hard off the field to stay in shape and make sure there is no rust on Tuesday night.
“We haven’t really had a bunch of time off,” he said. “We’re in the weight room every day, in the aerobics room, doing some bikes. We’re keeping in shape. I’m sure we’ll be ready to play on Tuesday.”
While many of Everett’s key players have developed in the Tide’s system for years, there has been one surprise addition to this year’s squad.
Senior Matt Pothier had not played football since his days on the Everett Eagles Pop Warner team. A knee injury forced him to stop playing a few years ago and focus on his No. 1 sport of baseball.
But at the request of Coach DiBiaso, Pothier decided to return for his senior season and has emerged as a starting free safety.
“Coach Dib asked me if I wanted to play,” said Pothier. “He said they needed some cornerbacks, safeties, linebackers, those positions and said ‘we’re gonna try you out and see how you do.’”
Pothier was a fullback in Pop Warner and never played defense until this year.
“When I came out here, I wasn’t even sure how to backpedal right,” he said. “[Defensive backs coach Ryan Taylor] helped me a lot with that. He and [defensive coordinator Joe McLaughlin] have just guided me step by step, getting ready each week.”
Taylor praised Pothier for being able to step in and play multiple positions after having not played football for such a long period of time.
“He’s been a really great addition to our team,” said Taylor. “He came out a couple games into the season, we really didn’t know where to put him, he hadn’t played football in a couple years. We knew he was a great athlete, a great kid and he wanted to try it out.
“He’s just been a huge bonus for us. He’s played everywhere, he’s been so versatile for us. He’s played corner, he’s played safety, he’s played linebacker, he’s come off the edge. He’s done a little bit of something every week, he’s risen to the challenge.
“It would be tough for a kid who’s played, never mind a kid who hasn’t played in two or three years.”
Pothier’s rapid improvement led him to a starting spot on the defense, something he never expected when he decided to return.
“I had no idea,” said Pothier. “I just thought they needed someone for here and there and I would just come in and help out, but I never thought I’d be starting.”
Taylor pointed to Pothier’s willingness to take coaching as the main reason for his rise up the depth chart.
“A lot of it was just getting him back to basic stuff, proper footwork, technique,” said Taylor. “He’s been really open to coaching. It’s a credit to him that he’s listened to everything I’ve told him to do. Week in and week out he just soaked in everything we’ve told him.
“He’s one of the toughest kids we’ve got, he’s a classic Everett kid, right there. Really tough, not scared of everything, just goes right at it. He’s pretty fearless.”
Jackarrie Washington, the Tide’s dynamic wide receiver/running back/defensive back, is the leading scorer in DIvision 1A - by far. The 5-foot-9-inch, 170-pound senior has scored 20 touchdowns (11 rushing, 8 receiving, 1 fumble return), good for 120 points. The next closest is Acton Boxborough’s William Tejada with 104.
As a result of his stellar season, Washington was named the MVP of the Greater Boston League.
“He’s done a great job for us on both sides of the ball,” said DiBiaso. “But he’d be the first one to credit the offensive line and tell you that he couldn’t have done it without them.”
Washington, along with fellow senior John Montelus, was also honored with the Bouvier Jewelers’ Football Award Nov. 8 at the 41st annual “E” Club dinner.
The event’s featured speaker was sports broadcaster Chris Collins, formerly of Comcast SportsNet New England and NECN. Collins is now the director of the Everett High television studio and is the brother-in-law of Everett football legend Omar Easy.
The “E” Club provides scholarships and other awards to student athletes at Everett High.
Every week we’ll have a captain or senior make a Patriots prediction for the upcoming game.
THIS WEEK’S PICK - PATRIOTS at JETS
Senior DB Matt Pothier has the Patriots beating the Jets, 28-21, on Thanksgiving night.
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 winter correspondents:
- Emily McCarthy | @EmilyMcCahthy | BPS correspondent
- Jake Fischer | @GlobeFischer | Boys basketball
- Michelle Fenelon | @michfenelon | Girls basketball
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Boys hockey
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls hockey
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail email@example.com.