[ccfic caption-text format="plaintext"]
By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
To most who’ve ever walked through the halls of 800 Clapboardtree Street, a 4-3 seeding record normally does not qualify as a “successful season” by Xaverian’s standards.
However, thanks to a combination of terrific coaching from first-year head coach Al Fornaro and guys peaking at the right time, the 2017 Hawks got hot and won three straight playoff games against Attleboro, Needham, and Catholic Memorial by an average of 31 points to take the South title and reach their fifth straight Division I Super Bowl.On Saturday, the Hawks (7-5) took to the field at Gillette Stadium to try and serve up some revenge to North Sectional champs Everett, to whom Xaverian had fallen in last season’s Division I Super Bowl, 21-7, and again in their 2017 regular season meeting on September 9 (38-7).
Unfortunately for the Hawks, who hung around throughout the first half, Everett’s depth and size proved too much to handle, as the Crimson Tide (11-0) defended their Super Bowl title with a 35-10 victory.
The last thing the Hawks could afford in the early going was a turnover, but the stout Everett secondary came up big on Xaverian’s opening drive as defensive back Mike Sainristil intercepted a Davin Sweeney pass and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown to put the Crimson Tide ahead 7-0.
A fumble on Xaverian’s next possession set Everett up near midfield with the chance to go ahead by two scores. Five plays into the drive, Sainristil crossed the goal line on a three-yard toss play to the left to double the Everett lead to 14-0.
Xaverian finally got into an offensive rhythm on their next possession, as the Hawks went back to their trademark power-run style and handed the ball off to their two workhorses, Mike Saliba and Ikechukwu Irabor (14 carries, 97 yards, one touchdown). With 6:21 remaining, Irabor got the Hawks right back in it with a 15-yard touchdown run to the right corner of the end zone on a stretch play, cutting the deficit in half to 14-7.Xaverian’s defense stepped up big on Everett’s next possession, as defensive back Brian Abraham made a critical pass breakup on third-and-short to force the Crimson Tide to their first three-and-out of the game. A 19-yard punt return by Cooper DeVeau set up the Hawks at midfield with the chance to drive and tie the game before the half. On the first play of the drive, Michael Masse busted one up the middle, barreling through multiple defenders and taking it inside the Everett 15-yard line. Xaverian kept feeding the rock to Irabor, and the senior picked up a first down after three straight carries to set up a first-and-goal from the four. However, Everett’s defense stood tall in the final minute, forcing Xaverian to settle with a 20-yard field goal by Brian Fallon to cut the deficit to 14-10 at the half.
Everett struck just 90 seconds into the third quarter, thanks to a 28-yard touchdown pass from Jake Willcox to Anthony Norcia, to extended the lead to 11 at 21-10. Xaverian responded with a long drive down to the Everett two-yard line, but the Tide defense stopped Xaverian on downs following an incompletion on a play-action pass, keeping it at a two-score deficit for the Hawks.
On the first play of Everett’s next series, Crimson Tide running back Kevin Brown delivered the dagger with a 98-yard touchdown to increase the lead to 18 points at 28-10.
Everett would another late score to go ahead 35-10 and hung on for the 25-point win to secure back-to-back titles.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.