The Everett High football team needed a big play on defense but Omar Graciano went one better: he made two.
Graciano, the Crimson Tide’s 6-foot-4, 195-pound defensive end, made successive gems on a crucial series of downs in the fourth quarter to help Everett preserve its lead and go on to earn a hard-fought 19-7 victory over St. John’s Prep on Homecoming Day at Everett Memorial Stadium.
With St. John’s threatening to notch the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter, Graciano batted down a pass from St. John’s quarterback Jack Sharrio. Two plays later on fourth down, Graciano tackled the Prep quarterback before he had a chance to turn the corner and seek first down yardage.
St. John’s Prep had scored 80 points in wins over Dracut (49-6) and Central Catholic (31-7), but Graciano and Company kept the Eagles in check, especially in the decisive second half with the game on the line.
“The coaches just told me to key the quarterback and make sure he doesn’t get free,” said Graciano. “In the first half we were getting avoided a little bit, but coach [John] DiBiaso gave us a great motivational speech in the locker room and we just stepped it up.”
Graciano was asked about the tipped pass and the chase-and-tackle after St. John’s had intercepted a pass and had the ball at the Everett 25-yard line. “Every play is important,” said Graciano. “I try to do the best I can do, get a sack, get a tipped pass, just do my job. It’s like coach [Joe] McLaughlin says, ‘just do your job, be physical, and play hard.’’’
During last year’s Super Bowl championship season, Graciano was in a three-man rotation on the defensive line with Ralph Jonathas and Jeff Soulouque before an injury limited his play.
But Graciano worked hard in conditioning and training since the end of last season and he has now emerged as an early-season star for the No.-1 ranked Tide.
“We want to get back to the Super Bowl – that was what the whole off season was about, just working hard, getting bigger, and making an impact this year,” said Graciano, an honor roll student.
Summing up his team’s big win over St. John’s in a classic No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown in front of a large crowd, Graciano said, “It’s always great to come out with a win, especially on Homecoming.”
Perhaps the proudest person in the stadium was Omar’s mother, Matilde Graciano, who led a delegation of family members in attendance.
“I am so proud of my son – he’s a great boy,” said Matilde Graciano.