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Dan Shaughnessy

Son shining in Everett

Tomorrow, prolific quarterback DiBiaso will try to make it 23 straight wins for his father's team

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Staff / November 23, 2011
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There are rows of photographs on the wall behind coach John DiBiaso’s desk at Everett High School - images of John and his son, Jonathan, standing at the Crimson Tide football field.

In this gallery, you can see the progression, the passage of the years as the young boy grows into a young adult.

The first photo was taken when Jonathan was only 3, back in 1997. That was the year Coach DiBiaso’s Crimson Tide went to their second Super Bowl.

Tomorrow, as a 17-year-old senior - and statistically the greatest quarterback in the history of Massachusetts high school football - Jonathan DiBiaso will try to win his 23d consecutive game when Everett plays host to Cambridge at 10 a.m.

As the son of a 55-year-old coach who graduated from Everett in 1974 (head football coach since ’92), Jonathan DiBiaso literally grew up under the Friday Night Lights of Everett Memorial Stadium.

“We didn’t have day care or a babysitter, so I’d go to the football field every day for a couple of hours,’’ said the quarterback. “I’ve been getting coached by high school coaches and high school players since I was a little kid. I saw all the different players coming up and winning championships. Football is everything to people in Everett.’’

The senior remembers the 12 Super Bowls and eight state championships and the annual Greater Boston League crowns of his wonder years. He remembers the coldest night ever when he was 8 years old and the fabulous Nuzzo brothers (Frank and Matt) beat Brockton, 34-7, in the Division 1 semifinals at Everett. It was the first meeting of Everett and Brockton in 49 years, and it was so cold your spit crystallized before it hit the turf.

“They had the heaters’’ - pronounced “heetahs’’ - “out there by the field,’’ DiBiaso remembered. “I was dressed really warm and I must have had plastic or something on my pants because I was standing by the heetah and my pants caught on fire. I think they put water on me to get the fire out. I was OK.’’

He has been white-hot ever since. On Oct. 28, DiBiaso threw six touchdown passes in the first half of a 41-14 win over Medford, which vaulted him past Brockton’s Tom Colombo’s state record (85).

With as many as three games left to play, Everett’s senior southpaw has 97 touchdown passes, 38 this season. He is gunning for the season record of 43 he set last season.

Throwing six more this year might not be as easy as it sounds. The Tide exhausts opponents with a no-huddle, hurry-up offense, but Coach DiBiaso says he doesn’t like running up the score.

“We stop at 42,’’ he said. “I never score more than 50 if I can help it.’’

This certainly sounds sporting and in the true spirit of Thanksgiving, but it hasn’t always been easy for the DiBiaso family to dodge the slings and arrows of their detractors. Winning comes at a cost, and there is a stream of jealousy and anger coming from the Internet, the stands, and the guys on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

Maureen DiBiaso, the coach’s wife and the quarterback’s mother (also a special education teacher at the high school), doesn’t even sit in the stands anymore. You hear less that way.

“Jonathan’s been subjected to a lot of abuse for a kid, stuff that you’d only expect if you played for the Red Sox or something like that,’’ said the coach/dad, “but I like to think that makes him a stronger person.

“They were merciless in the first couple of years. My daughter [Kristen, Everett Class of 2010, captain of cheerleaders, now at Emerson] wanted to go in the stands and beat them up.’’

The quarterback, who still has braces on his teeth, said, “They bust my chops all the time. I always get the ‘daddy’ jokes during the game. I’ll hear, ‘Daddy can’t help you now,’ and all that stuff on the field.

“It’s all the same stuff, so I’m used to it. It’s just nonsense, really. I’ve dealt with it my whole life. No biggie.’’

The coach was dealing with detractors long before his son took over as quarterback. This happens when you win or share your league championship 17 years in a row (every year of the quarterback’s life). This happens when you start drawing from a different pool of kids. Everett’s roster for decades featured a lot of Italian and Irish names. Today it is home to a lot of kids from Haiti, Brazil, and El Salvador.

“What am I supposed to do, turn these kids away?’’ said the coach. “Everett has changed. If you live here and you go to school here, am I supposed to tell you that you can’t play because you’re a minority, because you’re not Irish or Italian?’’

What doesn’t change is winning. Winning big. Everett’s dominance in the Greater Boston League inspired flight from the league (“Peabody, Waltham, Arlington, and Revere abandoned us,’’ said the coach) and ultimately resulted in the GBL being downgraded to Division 1A after more than a century of Division 1.

That doesn’t prevent DiBiaso from playing the big boys. Everett’s nonleague schedule this year included Leominster, Springfield Central, St. John’s Prep, Barnstable, Xaverian, and BC High. The Tide beat ’em all.

And Jonathan DiBiaso threw touchdown passes against them all.

He threw two TD passes as a backup his freshman season and only 14 when he started as a sophomore. Last year was DiBiaso’s breakout season as he threw 43 touchdown passes and the 12-0 Tide beat St. John’s Prep in the Super Bowl. Now he has the record and a chance to play college football at Harvard, Dartmouth, or Holy Cross.

“I’ve been playing quarterback my whole life,’’ he explained. “I wasn’t always the fastest kid, but I could always throw the ball. I’m really accurate. My dad used to have me throw the football into the sideline baskets when I went to basketball practice with him.’’

The son of the coach always knows the game a little better than anyone else on the field. Ask Bill Belichick.

“My dad would always be breaking down film late at nights in our living room,’’ said the quarterback. “I was always with my dad so I’d get stuck watching the film. He doesn’t know how to work the controls of the VCR, so I always have to play it and hit rewind for him.’’

Years from now, when Jonathan has his braces off and he’s a grown man, he’ll hit the rewind button on all this and remember those high school days when he broke the records and won the Super Bowls and got to play for his dad at Everett Memorial Stadium on Thanksgiving.

Pretty sweet.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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