EVERETT, Mass. -- Buck McCarthy sat on the Everett High sideline slouched in a chair, crutches laying in front of him, his left leg heavily casted, and could only gaze out at the game unfolding that he'll never be playing again.
"It's horrible," he said, his eyes glued to the game. "I worked so hard for the team, and we all worked so hard together. But hey, that's football."
But the senior captain, who both dislocated his left ankle and broke his left fibia in a win over Barnstable, was far from forgotten in the No. 1 Crimson Tide's 42-21 homecoming win over No. 5 Xaverian. Senior Vondell Langston -- his close friend, and running mate in the linebacking corps -- switched from his No. 4 jersey to McCarthy's No. 44, and left the injured linebacker's nameplate on the back of the jersey. Before kickoff, he promised McCarthy a touchdown.
So naturally, the 6-foot-1 senior went off for a career-high 203 rushing yards and scored twice -- both in the fourth quarter. His first, a 13-yard draw that he cut to the right hash marks after shaking a Hawks linebacker, gave the Tide (6-0) a 28-13 lead; after Gilly De Souza kicked the extra point, Langston ran over to McCarthy and told him, "I told you I was gonna come through for you."
"That meant a lot to me," McCarthy smiled. "We're best friends. I love that kid, man."
Langston's second score essentially put this one out of reach, putting the Tided up 35-21 on the Hawks (4-2) with seven minutes to go. Stretching to the ride side of the field, Langston strafed along the line of scrimmage before slipping inside of a vicious crackback block by wide receiver Jalen Felix (10 catches, 145 yards, TD) and plowing to paydirt.
For Langston, it's the least he could do for his good pal.
"It's unfortunate that he's not out there with me, side by side, but I definitely wanted to do something special for him," Langston said. "I put on his jersey, and told him I was going to go hard for him."
Like many of the Tide's performances this season, this one started off slow. Xaverian's D.J. Pagliuca opend up the scoring with a 22-yard reception from Austin DeCarr with 6:02 left in the first half, marking the first time the Tide had trailed since giving up a quick score early to Leominster in Week 1.
But Everett quickly fired back, and from there the momentum rolled. Kenny Calaj (133 yards offense) capped an 11-play, 83-yard drive with a 10-yard plunge to knot it at seven. Five plays into the next Everett drive, Calaj took a dumpoff pass in the left flat, cut to the left sideline and raced his way into the end zone for a 40-yard score and a 14-7 lead. It was the last time the Tide trailed in the game.
Passing marks: Up to this point, the Tide absorbed their fair share of criticism in the passing game despite the high point totals they'd accumulated (39.8 points per game). From head coach John DiBiaso down to his son and quarterback Jonathan, and everyone in between, nobody seemed overly enthused even as the 30-point decisions continued to pile up.
Today, however, was a day of concession. Jonathan spread the ball around evenly to Jakarrie Washington, Jaylen McRae and Felix, as he finished within four passing touchdowns of the state's all-time record of 85.
"It was very good -- and under adverse conditions," smiled John DiBiaso, noting the strong winds to start the game. "We had a couple of bumps in the road, but I thought we did a good job. They're a good team. The way I said it, we were maybe two holding penalties and an interception away from scoring 60 points.
"That -- how can you complain? How can you, like, say 'Jeez, you know, we're not playing'...We're like three plays away from 60 points against a real good team. We're hitting all cylinders, getting better and better at it. The one thing we were able to do was balance out the plays now."
Jonathan finished with 308 yards passing with two touchdowns and a pick, and added a 39-yard scamper with 5:34 to round out the scoring. Meanwhile, the offense overall put up 565 yards.
When the game started, Jonathan was putting a little too much air under the ball and letting the wind get under it. As the game progressed, he shortened up his release and started firing darts across the middle of the field and to the flats, with Felix the biggest benefactor.
"We made adjustments, and when we started getting going in the second quarter, it's hard to stop us," Jonathan said. "We're a high-tempo team, we have five great athletes with the running backs and wide receivers, it's so tough to stop us that we can hit you at any point, and it showed. People stepped up today."
Respect the run: Langston was truly a benefactor today, rushing for a career-high 203 yards on just 15 carries as the Hawks found themselves conflicted on whether to stack the box or not. The Hawks maintained consistent pressure in the trenches thanks to junior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst Jr. (sack); but at the same time, Langston reeled off runs of 26, 32 and 50 off of simple draw plays.
Chris Calvanese (one interception) manned the secondary well as the free safety, but underneath it was the sturdy Langston's hard-nosed running style that kept the defense honest.
"They were overplaying the cutbacks a little, so I just used my eyes," Langston said, while noting Brandon Conde's admirable job filling in at guard for the injured Mike Ottersburg. "My offensive line did a great job. They were just opening the holes, and I run through them."
Quarterback controversy? Calvanese was back in the lineup today, and was under center for the game's first series. But Calvanese, the team's incumbent, found himself mostly lined up at wideout today.
Head coach Charlie Stevenson likes Calvanese's athleticism, and used him all over the field, taking end-around handoffs and option pitches out of the slot, and sometimes going deep on fly routes. Calvanese finished with four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown (a 61-yard gain), and added 15 yards on the ground on four carries.
Meanwhile, junior Austin DeCarr has been topped out at 91 miles per hour on his fastball in the spring and summer, and it showed on the field this afternoon. He finished with a very respectable 13 of 27 for 204 yards and three touchdowns, with one pick.
The gut feeling is that Stevenson will continue to platoon these two, but without compromising Calvanese's exemplary speed. Look for the traditionally-conservative Hawks to get a little more creative as they head into the Catholic Conference season.
Felix the Cat: To say the least, this was a breakout game for Felix. At times the junior showed flashes of Manny Asprilla by doing what the former ESPNBoston All-Stater and Boston College freshman did best for the Tide: taking short passes in the flats or in space downfield, and making defenders miss.
Several times, Felix took a quick screen by the sideline and juked several defensive backs en route to a first down. His touchdown catch, meanwhile, came on a 10-yard skinny post from the right slot that Jonathan hit perfectly in stride.
"I love to challenge one-on-one," Felix said of those short screen passes. "I like the challenge. I like when my team pushes me, I like when they depend on me, and I depend on them [too]. When that play comes up, we look forward to it."
EVERETT 42, XAVERIAN 21
XAV (4-2) 0 7 7 7 --- 21
EVE (6-0) 0 14 7 21 --- 42
X - D.J. Pagliuca 22 pass from Austin DeCarr (Jules Murphy kick) 6:02
E - Kenny Calaj 10 run (Gilly De Souza kick) 3:28
E - Calaj 40 pass from Jonathan DiBiaso (De Souza kick) 22.3
E - Jalen Felix 20 pass from DiBiaso (De Souza kick) 8:04
X - Chris Calvanese 61 pass from DeCarr (Murphy kick) 7:03
E - Vondell Langston 13 run (De Souza kick) 9:43
X - Mike Warren 19 pass from DeCarr (Murphy kick) 8:02
E - Langston 18 run (De Souza kick) 7:23
E - DiBiaso 39 run (De Souza kick) 5:34