Monday, September 2, 2013
After three-peat, No. 2 Everett avoids rebuilding year
By Brendan Hall
After going 28-1 over the last three seasons, Everett may take a step back -- but it's all relative.
It was one of the most dominant three-year runs in MIAA history, going 28-1 with three straight MIAA Eastern Mass. Super Bowl titles. They scored early and they scored often, including a 2010 run in which they outscored opponents by nearly a 30-point margin per game. They had high-profile talent in high-profile places, sending recruits off to places like Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Boston College, UMass, the Ivy League and seemingly everywhere else in between.
And now, it appears Everett High could be in for potentially a rebuilding year -- of course, in Everett that means more than one loss. There are some parallels to that last "rebuilding" team that went 8-3 in 2009. Back then, the Tide were coming off a three-year run that saw them win back-to-back D1 Super Bowls, and fall to eventual champ BC High in a playoff the third year. They graduated a load of talent, including Isaac Johnson, Walter Fallas, J.R. Suozzo and brothers Jim and Rodman Noel. Jonathan DiBiaso, the state's all-time leader in passing touchdowns, was a ripe sophomore.
That team took its lumps early on -- including an unheard-of 48-14 September beatdown at the hands of Dracut (a game which became just as well-known for coach John DiBiaso's post-game remarks, specifically "I just hope they don't take us off their schedule now" -- which they did, as it turns out).
But sooner or later, they figured it out, rolled to their 15th straight Greater Boston League title and a D1 Super Bowl berth, where they were shut out by rival Xaverian amidst the snow at Gillette Stadium. The lumps of that season gave way to the furious three-year run that concluded last December in similar snowy conditions, a 20-19 thriller over state No. 1 Barnstable to avenge an early-season loss and conclude a third straight Super Bowl title.
This year, the Tide must find replacements in the trenches, which graduated four starters from one of the nation's heaviest offensive lines and featured one of the East Coast's top recruits in John Montelus (Notre Dame). They must find new speed on the perimeter, where versatile threats Jakarrie Washington (Wisconsin) and Jalen Felix (Eastern Arizona JC) stressed defenses in so many different ways.
But does anybody truly, seriously doubt that these guys won't figure it out?
After all this was a team that last year was wholly unsettled at quarterback before the season even started, down to their fourth-stringer by their season-opener against Leominster. Raheem Wingard took over the reigns midway through the season, and the Tide never looked back.
The 5-foot-7 Wingard is back under center this season, and he has looked confident thus far in the preseason, putting better zip on the ball from a higher arm slot. Wingard developed a reputation last season as a running quarterback; working in the zone read out of the pistol, one of the new staples of Everett's offense this year, Wingard has shown the ability to make the right read on defensive ends.
He also maintains a chip on his shoulder, wanting to show the state last year's three-peat run was not the sole doings of last year's class.
"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," said Wingard following a recent scrimmage. "And it makes me push my team that much farther, that much harder."
There are questions abound, particularly on the offensive line, where Zach Pierre is the lone starter. They aren't one of the nation's heaviest like last year, when they averaged 324 across, but this is still big by Bay State standards, averaging nearly 285. Keep an eye on junior Guerschwon Jean-Louis (6-5, 350) and sophomore J.J. Collimon (6-3, 245) as potential prospects down line, and don't forget about juniors Eric Trickett (6-1, 260) and Muhammad Raouie (6-0, 290) either.
Questions lie at the receiver positions as well, though it's apparent there is some talent with this group. Lukas Denis will be a focal point at wide receiver, alongside Lubern Figaro, but one name to keep an eye on is Joe D'Onofrio. After earning Catholic Central Small honors (and some high praise from his former coach), D'Onofrio returns to Everett and should make an immediate impact on both sides of the ball.
Where there won't be questions, as usual, is in the secondary. Figaro, who laid the wood from both slot corner and strong safety last year, was one of the most sought-after recruits in the offseason. He currently holds a dozen Division 1 FBS offers, and has chosen a final five of Boston College, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Michigan State and Wisconsin; after initially saying he would decide before the start of the season, Figaro has pushed his selection date back to at least October, possibly later.
EVERETT AT A GLANCE Coach: John DiBiaso (22nd season at Everett, 263-64-1 overall)
Last Season: 11-1, won Div. 1A Eastern Mass. Super Bowl
Returning Starters: Eight (three offense, five defense)
Key Returnees: Sr. DB Lubern Figaro, Sr. LB C.J. Parvelus, Sr. QB Raheem Wingard, Sr. LB Angel Duarte, Sr. C Zach Pierre, Jr. ATH Lukas Denis
Strengths: Secondary, linebackers, passing game.
Weaknesses: Inexperience at offensive and defensive lines.
Outlook: This might be the youngest, greenest team Everett has rolled out since 2009, when they got off to a rusty start before marching to the D1 EMass Super Bowl. Like that 2009 team, it might take a bit for everything to come along, but does anybody seriously doubt the Tide won't figure it out? Last year's offensive line, led by Notre Dame freshman John Montelus, was one of the nation's heaviest at nearly 324 pounds across. This year's line is lighter, but still heavy by Massachusetts high school standards, and with a few intriguing young prospects who still have some growing to do, mentally and physically. Expect senior Joe D'Onofrio, a transfer from cross-town Pope John XXIII, to be a focal point of the passing game; he's already made an immediate impact during the preseason, able to stretch defenses vertically with high-4.5 speed. Wingard has shown improvement at passing, and that he's ready to take leadership reigns, and when coupled with Figaro, Denis and newbie Miguel Lopes, there's faith that the Tide will figure it out. The Tide should have one of the state's best secondaries once again, led by Figaro, who holds a dozen scholarship offers and is deciding between Boston College, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Michigan State and Wisconsin.