EVERETT, Mass. -- This morning at Everett Memorial Stadium, the No. 2 Everett Crimson Tide hosted Lynn English in their annual first-weekend preseason scrimmage. In two series of varsity on varsity, Everett's offense scored four times, while the Bulldogs failed to reach the end zone.
This was our first look in the 2013 preseason at Everett, which is undergoing some wholesale changes in personnel after going 28-1 with three Super Bowl championships the last three seasons, as well as a good measure on several promising stars for English. Below are some notes and observations:
Radio Raheem: If there was any dash of speculation before about who was going to be taking snaps under center, incumbent senior Raheem Wingard made it clear who was in charge. The 5-foot-8, 170-pound Wingard is built low to the ground and gets overlooked for his height, but he has a better arm than given credit for, and is excellent at making the proper read on backside defensive ends.
After graduating one of the program's most talented classes ever, led by the likes of Jakarrie Washington (Wisconsin), John Montelus (Notre Dame) and Jalen Felix (Eastern Arizona JC), Wingard takes the reigns with a chip on his shoulder. Everett was down to its fourth-string quarterback by opening night of the 2012 campaign, but Wingard moved over from running back to QB full-time midway through the year, and gave the Tide another running threat out of the backfield.
"He's stepping it up," Tide coach John DiBiaso said. "I think Raheem wants to prove it wasn't just Jakarrie [Washington], Jalen Felix, Kenny Calaj, Gilly De Souza, you know, that he had a hand in it a little bit. A lot of these kids have been the same way."
Said Wingard, "I feel like I'm one of the quarterbacks that gets overlooked a lot because I'm smaller, but that just gives me a little more motivation, and it makes me push my team that much farther, that much harder."
Everett primarily operated out of two-by-two double slot formations, pairing Lukas Denis and Lubern Figaro on one side opposite newcomers Mike Lopes and Joe D'Onofrio. That opened up the field for a series of slippery zone read plays up the middle, which Wingard usually orchestrated correctly.
D'Onofrio off and running: The prettiest play of the afternoon belonged to D'Onofrio, who connected with Wingard for a 55-yard touchdown pass towards the end of the Tide's first of two offensive series. Split wide just outside the numbers, D'Onofrio gained a step on his defender cutting diagonally on a post route, slipped behind the safety coming over the top, and let the ball softly drop over his shoulder into his outstretch hands, sprinting the final 20 yards to paydirt.
The 5-foot-11, 182-pound D'Onofrio was the Catholic Central Small MVP last year at cross-town Pope John XXIII after rushing for 1,356 yards and 16 touchdowns, his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season. But school has since gotten rid of its football program, leading D'Onofrio back to Everett, where he dabbled as a freshman.
If this morning is any indication, D'Onofrio is making a seamless fit into the Everett passing game. His slender frame blended with top-end speed and crisp routes draws comparisons to former Everett great Matt Costello, the 2010 ESPN Boston Mr. Football now playing for Princeton University, with the ability to stretch a defense vertically and take the top off. They're slightly different players, though -- D'Onofrio is a bit more physical, what with playing outside linebacker on defense.
"He's a real good player," DiBiaso said. "I've known him since he was five years old, he grew up in [Everett's] Pop Warner and everything. He did the couple years at Pope John, and now he's back with us. We're happy to have him, he's a good addition to the program. He's a good athlete."
Green in the trenches: Last season, the Tide had one of the nation's heaviest lines, averaging 324 pounds across, led by the 6-foot-5, 330-pound Montelus. This year's line is smaller, but still pretty impressive by high school standards at nearly 286 pounds across. Senior center Zach Pierre (5-11, 284) is the lone returning starter, and the Tide are breaking in new guards in juniors Eric Trickett (6-1, 260) and Muhammad Raouie (6-0, 290).
Two of the most intriguing newbies may be at the bookends. Junior Guerschwon Jean-Louis is in his first year of ever playing organized football, but at 6-foot-5 and nearly 350 pounds he held his own at the left tackle position. Sophomore right tackle J.J. Collimon is almost athletic enough to be a tight end, and may project the highest at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds.
Today was a good matchup for the young but promising Everett line, which had to deal with ESPN Boston Preseason All-State selection Chris Tinkham on the interior. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound senior has attracted Division 1 interest and is an impressive bull-rusher on the interior, but everywhere else the Tide were able to take control.
Offensively, the Tide moved the ball consistenly downfield, with linemen consistently getting into the second level. In one of the more impressive plays of the varsity action, Raouie charged up the left sideline on a screen and sealed off an English defender 15 yards downfield.
Defensively, Tinkham high-walled ends from the left tackle spot, but from the right side the Tide registered two sacks in the second English offensive series, including a nice speed rush from three-technique tackle Sidney Brimas, while 180-pound tackle Josh Palmer caused disruption shooting the inside gaps.
Harris-Javier battle heats up: One of the more intriguing camp battles is at English, where Lucas Harris is the incumbent but has been getting a good run from junior transfer Jordan Javier. At Haverhill High last year as a sophomore, the 6-foot-4 Javier excelled at wide receiver, but over the summer he has gotten plenty of reps at quarterback -- a move that's merited, as he makes difficult throws look effortless.
Javier, laboring through a tweaked meniscus from earlier in the week, took most of his snaps at quarterback, and took a few lumps early in the first series. On one play, he scrambled down the right sideline only to be stopped cold by Everett's C.J. Parvelus 10 yards down field. Two plays later, Javier threaded a laser deep down the left slot, only to watch highly-touted safety Lubern Figaro stip the ball from Harris' grip at the last second.
Both Harris and Javier made some great plays on the run, hitting receivers with tight balls just steps from the sidelines on deep comeback routes. And when Javier did line up at receiver for a few plays, he made the most of it, including an impressive catch from Harris on a square-in route from the left.
So far, Javier has shown promise, but Harris has done nothing to suggest he shouldn't be the quarterback. Receiver appears to be Javier's more natural position, based on history, so perhaps there is a compromise.
It will be worth monitoring Javier's left knee, which he re-aggravated late in the varsity series, having to be carried off by teammates and barely putting weight on his left leg. It's considered nothing serious, another tweak of the meniscus, according to English coaches.
Miscellaneous: One name to keep an eye on down the line: Jordan McAfee. The 6-foot-3 freshman is the Tide's third-string quarterback behind Wingard and Pat Long, but demonstrates remarkable maturity for a 14-year-old kid and made two terrific throws on comeback routes in the morning's final series. ... When the Tide got inside the red zone, they went to their familiar "Double Wing" package, experimenting with Raouie at fullback. Twice they scored on five-yard power sweeps, one in each of the two varsity series, from Denis and D'Onofrio. ... The linebacking corps appears to be set for now, with Angel Duarte at middle linebacker and Parvelus and D'Onofrio playing outside. ... In the secondary, keep an eye on junior Richard Jean, who made a good break on a deep pass late in the second series, deflecting a would-be touchdown at the sideline from about 10 yards out. ... DiBiaso on the roles expected of Figaro and Denis: "They've got to be leaders. We don't have that many experienced [players], so they've got to be leaders on the team. Lubern and [Lukas], those are the two bigger names out there."