SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- It was a long, somber huddle for the Central Golden Eagles after falling to state No. 1 Everett, 33-14, at Springfield’s Berte Field on Friday night.
Yet, it started with promise for the Eagles.
They overcame a sloppy start to pull even at 7-7 with 3:21 left in the second quarter, when Aaron Owens followed a 55-yard pass from Cody Williams to Ju’wan Williams with a 22-yard touchdown run that included a couple of stiff-arms to ward off Everett defenders.
With three minutes to go in the half, it seemed for a moment as though Central, looking to earn respect for Western Mass. and avenge last year’s 42-13 defeat, had some magic dust on hand to work toward an upset.
But Everett was swift to respond. The Crimson Tide marched down the field and Jalen Felix scored his second touchdown of the night, giving Everett a 14-7 halftime lead it would never relinquish. Felix would finish 211 total yards and two touchdowns.
After playing a conservative first half the Crimson Tide opened it up beginning in the third quarter. New quarterback Gilly DeSouza took center stage, capping off a big drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jakarrie Washington to open third quarter.
A Central turnover followed on the ensuing drive, giving DeSouza another opportunity. He hit Joey White in stride between two defenders to put his team up 26-7 with 5:43 still left in the third.
The Everett lead wasn’t done growing. Eight minutes later, DeSouza found Brendan La Rosa in the back of the endzone and giving his team a 33-7 lead.
Central would go on the score once more in the closing moments, but by the time Cody Williams found Ju’wan Williams for the Eagles’ second touchdown, the game was long out of reach.
De Souza Stars Again: Crimson Tide head coach John DiBiaso was quick after the game to offer his praises for DeSouza.
“It was all audibles at the line of scrimmage from the quarterback,” DiBiaso said. “I thought Gilly [De Souza] did a great job making the right call.”
It was indeed De Souza’s decision making that shone brightest as he spread the ball around and did an excellent job adjusting to different looks by the defense. He only completed six passes but he racked up 167 yards with four touchdowns.
Central Regroups: After coming into the game hoping to avenge last years 42-13 loss to Everett, the Golden Eagles will have to wait a year to get another shot at the Crimson Tide juggernaut.
Cody Williams, who kept his cool under constant pressure during the game going 20-31 for 227 with a touchdown and an interception, was emotional afterwards.
“We just got to come back and dominate harder,” Williams said. “I just don’t think we executed as good as we could. We practiced really hard this week and I thought we put up a good fight against them coming into the second half but we let them slip. We wish to get these guys back [next year].”
“When the going gets tough we need leaders to be leaders, keep their composure.” Central head coach Valdamar Brower said. “When kids look at our defensive leaders or offensive leaders and sees them freaking out like things are going bad, they can’t, They have to look to them, look for guidance and say ‘we can hang in there’ you know, keep fighting. Hopefully we can learn from that, grow from that.”
Rolling with the Punches: Flexibility was key in the second half for the Crimson Tide, as Everett took what the Eagles gave them during an explosive second half.
“They played very tough, it was a pretty much even first half," DiBiaso said. "Fortunately we had some scores in the second half, kinda opened it up. When they brought a lot of people in the box we passed and when they dropped people back into coverage we ran."
“We made a lot of mistakes for the second week in a row penalties and mental errors that we just can’t afford to make, hopefully we’ll iron those out.”
There’s always room for improvement, but the Tide looked every bit as good as predicted before the season, and will look to keep on rolling next week against St. Johns Prep.