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Recap: No. 1 Everett 29, No. 7 Leominster 7

9/8/2012

LEOMINSTER, Mass. -- Gilly De Souza is most known at Everett for his supreme right foot. But when you look at his entire body of work to this point, a more accurate comparison might be a Swiss Army knife.

Exhibit A? On Monday, with the quarterback situation still unsettled due to the injury, Tide head coach John DiBiaso asked De Souza -- who had never started a game under center -- to take some snaps.

"Don't worry about it, coach," De Souza simply said, and that was the end of it. The Tide were rusty to start, compounded with the absence of running back Kenny Calaj (high ankle sprain), but after some early growing pains they settled down. De Souza tossed a second-quarter touchdown that broke the Everett offense out of a stale slump, then delivered a bone-jarring hit from the free safety spot to set the tone defensively, as the Crimson Tide overcame another rusty start against the upstart Blue Devils, 29-7 before a capacity crowd at Doyle Field.

"I have all the confidence in the world in him," DiBiaso said of De Souza. "He kicked for us at Gillette as a freshman [in the 2009 Division 1 Super Bowl]. He's seen everything. He's been under the big lights. We felt comfortable going with him."

With De Souza at quarterback, the Everett (1-0) offense opened in a "Wildcat" look, with Jalen Felix and Joey White behind center, to stretch the perimeter. When they went to De Souza, the Tide utilized a zone read look. With such uncertainty at quarterback, the Tide were likely to have more balance on offense than their pass-happy 2011 product, but without having to take their key perimeter players off the field to do it.

The approach wasn't without its growing pains in the earlygoing. Sandwiched between steady doses of toss sweeps and zone reads were a number of false starts, and one miscommunication on a hurry-up shotgun snap that led to a 10-yard loss -- and then, for good measure, another false start on the next play.

If you've been following this series as of late, this is a familiar narrative. Following that aforementioned false start, facing 2nd and 24 from the Blue Devils' 32, De Souza tossed a fade to Washington that was underthrown, but hauled in easily for the game-opening score. Washington followed up in the second half with a 57-yard toss sweep to open the third quarter, followed by a tip-drill pick-six from junior Lubern Figaro and a 13-yard stretch from Jalen Felix.

Injury diagnoses: The two players that battled in training camp for the starting spot, sophomores Lukas Denis and Pat Long, both dressed. Only Denis, a compact but speedy option-style quarterback, saw time, late in the fourth quarter. DiBiaso confirmed Long has a separated shoulder and is out for six weeks. Denis has tendonitis in his left (throwing) elbow, and was not cleared to play until Thursday night.

Calaj, an ESPN Boston Preseason All-State selection, is considered "week to week" right now by DiBiaso.

"We were hoping to get him treatment, but it didn't respond as well as we thought when the week began," DiBiaso said. "It's nothing serious. Hopefully, we get him back next week. If not, hopefully in the near future."

On the other side, Leominster center David Knight had to be helped off the field in the second half with a knee injury, unable to put weight on his left leg. The status and timetable of the injury aren't known at this time.

Washington Wizard: Washington touched the ball four times tonight, and accounted for over 100 yards (2 carries, 62 yards; 2 catches, 57 yards) and two scores that looked almost effortless.

On his first touchdown, the 32-yard reception from De Souza, Washington ran a fade and looked back towards the line of scrimmage after De Souza faked a jet sweep handoff to Joey White. Seeing the ball underthrown, Washington slowed his stride, turned his shoulders to box out his defender, then backpedaled the last five yards into the end zone.

On his second touchdown, the opening play of the second half, Washington took a toss to the right then cut back over the middle and raced seemingly effortlessly to a 57-yard scamper.

There is speed, and then there's Everett speed, a special brand for this region that sometimes moves with a college-level fluidity. At the forefront of this notion in 2012 are Washington and Felix, two preseason All-State selections with sub-4.5 speed and some unique creativity on the perimeter.

"Anybody in the state, if they can keep up with Jakarrie, good luck with that," De Souza said. "All you have to do is put it up there for him."

DiBiaso was pleased with Washington's efforts tonight, particularly with the toss play that made it 15-0.

"We had to make sure that first drive of the second half we were going to score, put the game in the hands of our offensive linemen," DiBiaso. "He made a great run, and that changed the game."

Impressive playcalling: Leominster comes away with a loss, but won plenty of praise from the Everett players and coaches for the efforts.

Head coach Dave Palazzi is generally regarded as one of the better offensive minds in Central Mass., and he dialed up some terrific play-calling. The Tide were aligned to prevent the big play, and Palazzi's response was to go to the underneath game, using an array of screens for a number of first downs.

We've previously noted the good connection between quarterback Garrett DelleChiaie and Neil O'Connor, and tonight their stats speak to that connection, and the way in which it was utilized (DelleChiaie -- 14 of 19 passing, 195 yards; O'Connor -- 7 catches, 81 yards). By not just getting the ball to O'Connor in the flats, but getting the ball to him as quickly as DelleChiaie did, the Blue Devils made up for their visible size disadvantage.

However, three turnovers -- including DelleChiaie's pick-six, and his fumble into the end zone that resulted in a touchback -- did the Blue Devils in.

"We did a good job up front at times, but they [Everett] just keep coming at you, full bore," Palazzi said. "Garrett had to scramble a few times."