Crimson Tide too tough for Billerica
LOWELL - A sophomore quarterback was expected to carry his team into the Division 1 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium Saturday. But not many expected it to be Everett’s Jonathan DiBiaso, who turned in one of the best performances of his young career in the Crimson Tide’s 21-7 win over Billerica last night at Cawley Stadium.
Billerica’s star quarterback, Nick LaSpada, was taken out of the game after a first-quarter run up the right sideline that ended with a hard diving tackle by linebacker Mike LaRochelle. LaSpada, who led the division in touchdown passes, did not return after suffering a right knee injury. He finished 0 for 4 passing and had 11 yards on two carries.
“Our kids came to play from the moment the game started and set the tempo,’’ said Everett coach John DiBiaso. “It’s unfortunate the guy gets hurt . . . but I don’t think it takes anything away from our kids.’’
Down 14 late in the game and trying to rally, Billerica tasted bitter failure on back-to-back drives. Needing to convert on fourth and 28 at Everett’s 33 with just over six minutes left, wide receiver-turned-replacement quarterback Wayne Bolz (12 of 31 for 263 yards) hit a streaking Jim Holland down the left sideline, but Holland leaped and landed with the ball at the 7, 2 yards shy of the first down.
Everett, unable to ice the game on the ensuing drive, was forced to punt. The duo of Bolz and Holland connected for 34 yards to get to the 10, but the next pass was picked off by Rodman Noel in the end zone to stamp Everett’s ticket to the Super Bowl. The exclamation point came with a minute left in the game, when Matt Costello intercepted his third pass, two of which came in the end zone.
“We kind of played them man-up and pretty much had all single coverage,’’ said Costello, whose life was made easier by the consistent pressure of defensive end Nelson Delgado.
Both teams traded defensive haymakers early, but an 89-yard run by Manny Asprilla (12 carries for 138 yards) brought the Greater Boston League champions to the 1. A personal foul on the subsequent play negated a DiBiaso score, but the young signal-caller picked up the slack on third and goal from the 11 a few plays later.
DiBiaso took the snap and held the ball in the pocket, staring down blanketed receivers while his offensive line stymied Billerica’s three-man rush. With no other option, DiBiaso took off up the middle and brushed off two Indians at the goal line, breaking through to give Everett the lead. Gilly DeSouza’s extra point gave the Tide a 7-0 advantage as the first quarter ended.
“I was looking for Matt, but he couldn’t break free,’’ said DiBiaso. “My line formed an umbrella and I ran up the middle.’’
Two possessions later, Everett took over at its 45 after forcing an ineffective Indian offense to a three-and-out. Billerica seemed to respond with its own three-and-out, but punter Costello, usually on the receiving end of passes, threw a 16-yard pass on fourth and 9 to Noel to continue the Tide drive.
Seven plays and another fourth-down conversion later (a DiBiaso 2-yard run), DiBiaso found a wide-open Asprilla in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown.
Everett began to pull away on its first drive of the third quarter when Asprilla followed up a 31-yard jaunt with a touchdown trot from the 5.
Billerica finally broke through in the fourth. A 40-yard pass from Bolz to Holland set up a 2-yard scoring run by Brian Higgins. Steven Trask’s extra point made the score 21-7, and his onside kick was recovered by Ryan Donohoe, but that set up a string of late defensive stops by the Tide.