By Jean DePlacido
---- — EVERETT — Missed opportunities.
It’s what ultimately cost the St. John’s Prep football team Saturday in its highly anticipated battle with the state’s top-ranked squad, Everett High. While the visiting Eagles had their chances and battled the Crimson Tide play for play, untimely penalties proved costly in a 19-7 loss before 2,000 fans at Everett Memorial Stadium.
It was a five-point game until just over a minute remaining when the Eagles (2-1) turned the ball over on downs on their own 8-yard line, and Everett’s Jalen Felix iced the win for his team with a touchdown run on the very next play.
“(Everett head coach) John DiBiaso said it would come down to penalties and turnovers; he was right,” said Jim O’Leary, the St. John’s Prep head coach.
St. John’s Prep clung to a 7-6 lead at halftime, but the margin by which they led could have been greater. They went from their own 33 to the Crimson Tide’s 1-yard line after Alex Moore caught a 15-yard pass from captain Jack Sharrio with nine seconds to go before intermission. The Prep was then called for a false start as Sharrio spiked the ball, costing them five yards, and after the field goal unit was called onto the field, then called back, Sharrio’s pass was picked off in the end zone.
Everett (3-0), which has won 28 straight games, scored on the game’s opening drive but missed its 2-point conversion attempt. St. John’s answered right back with a 70-yard scoring drive (aided by two Tide penalties) and two long runs off of QB keepers by Sharrio. He fired an 8-yard TD pass to Moore before Stephen Cammaro’s kick gave the Eagles a 7-6 advantage.
St. John’s had a chance to expand its lead on its next possession, but a fourth down pass from the Everett 22 by Sharrio to Lucas Bavaro went for no gain.
Kenny Calaj’s 4-yard TD run gave Everett the lead back in the third quarter at 12-7.
The Prep seemingly took the lead back when Michael Fawehinmi picked off a Gilly DeSouza pass and returned it 43 yards for a score. But the play was nullified after the Eagles were called for an illegal block below the waist.
“That (interception) was a great play, but our kids know on a change of possession you can’t go below the waist,” said O’Leary.
One very successful adjustment for the hosts was putting Omar Graciano on Sharrio in the second half; the Prep QB completed only one pass in the final two quarters, and it was for negative yards. “Omar made a big difference, and our stop on the 1-yard line at the end of the half was huge,” said DiBiaso. “This was an old fashioned Everett win: three yards and a cloud of dust, but we’ll take it. We had to make changes this year. If you don’t, you’re a dinosaur ... and we all know they are extinct.”
“They’re the best team in the state; I believe that,” added O’Leary, whose club plays at Brockton Friday night.