By Christie MacDonald, Special to the Leader Herald
Why doesn’t Everett have a semi-pro football team?
Everett is home to Teddy Peanut Butter, McKinnon’s, multiple breweries, and now Encore Casino.
And yet we are most famous for our beloved football team, the Crimson Tide.
The Crimson Tide and its coaches have worked incredibly hard across multiple generations to earn a haul of high school championships, eventually becoming equally known for breeding winners as well as possessing an unmatched ability to send out a siren call to the talented athletes in our region who moved to Everett specifically to play for our division 1 program.
We’ve all grown up attending games and watching the Crimson Tide stack their championships one atop the other, and there’s signage as a reminder to everyone traveling down Route 16.
Many of those same kids that hoisted championships, now adults, still live in Everett. Including former NFL fullback Omar Easy, who took a brief position as the high school’s vice principal in 2012 and still is employed by the city.
With all that said, maybe Everett is the perfect city to welcome a semi-professional team.
Everett High School alumni and current head coach, Theluxon Pierre, is in favor of the idea of bringing a semi-pro team to our football ranks, but only if the situation is handled properly.
“As long as the right people go about it the right way and all the players are protected”, said Pierre while referring to the new concussion protocol and a need for players to be insured against injury. With parents becoming more aware of the risks associated with the game “Pop Warner has taken a dip every year,” said Pierre.
And Pierre is spot on, the future of football teeters on the edge of love for the game and protection for its players.
While speaking with a local semi-pro player, it’s clear the passion is still there after high school or even college but accessibility is a bigger issue.
“We [as adults with jobs and careers] just manage to free up some time so we can play the sport we love.” Says Zeke Santiago, 31, an Everett resident and quarterback for the Mass Phoenix semi-pro football team. The life of semi pro athletes like Santiago, who play for another city, consist of countless hours driving in order to make practices, as a well as coordinating a work schedule. “Having friends and family locally
would mean them getting out to the field a lot easier. There would be a lot of support” said Santiago. There are currently 15 teams in the East Coast Football League (ECFL) and 29 teams in the New England Football League (NEFL) spread across its 3 divisions. Lynn has one, as well as Chelmsford, West Roxbury,
and Marlboro, with the team to beat being the undefeated Boston Bandits.
I recently attended an ECFL game in Leominster for the Mass Phoenix and the bleachers were packed.
They had an impressive field and a large, fully-engaged crowd. It seemed as if the whole town was there with coolers, blankets, and more chairs for when the stands had no more seats to offer. I witnessed kids waiting outside the locker room doors to get a player’s autograph – it was a beautiful sight to behold.
The camaraderie and sense of community reminded me of those high school days when half the town came out to watch the Crimson Tide play: faces painted, stands packed to the brim, and an overflow of people in folding chairs or leaning against the fence too excited to remain seated.
Many of those immensely talented athletes went on to have illustrious college and professional careers or ended up playing on semi-pro teams for other cities. But for the athletes who didn’t follow a traditional route, “this could be a good opportunity for people to continue their passion,” according to Nick Stanfield, Everett police officer and former coach, college athlete and Crimson Tide alumni.
“Football can do great things for a community, which I’ve been able to see first-hand growing up in Everett,” said Stanfield.
Though our city is often overlooked due to its size, it is brimming with talent – people itching to get back on the turf and represent their hometown once again.
We now have a big beautiful new field with ample parking in the area, and an improvement to the older field that sits right off a major roadway. Our city has been doing a lot to rebrand itself lately, seeming to do well keeping up with our neighbors, even daring to reach for world class status with the Encore Casino.
Yet still, bringing things back to the basics of what we have always been known for would do wonders in uniting the city’s residents past, present and future.