WILBRAHAM -- The knock on Western Massachusetts football is that, despite the number of athletes in and around Springfield, they typically don’t get to experience the in-season matchups that warrant serious looks from NCAA Division I football programs.
That may change following the region’s terrific showing at the Super 7 Showcase Saturday, held by Elite Athlete Development at Wilbraham & Monson Academy.
Featuring many top-level recruits from Connecticut and New York, the top players from the Springfield area had the opportunity to compete against competition that’s on another level compared to what they’ll see during the high school football season. A quick glimpse at the post-camp awards will prove that they certainly didn’t waste the opportunity.
In fact, some of the names likely to make headlines this fall, dominated the camp and showed they can play with other top northeast recruits.
Springfiel Central’s Aaron Owens took home the camp’s Most Valuable Player Award. The incoming senior, who was used in various capacities for the Golden Eagles last season, showed an ability to stay with the camp’s receiving corps, which included Manchester (Conn.) tight end Andrew Isaacs and Tottenville (NY) wide receiver Malique Belfort --- who combine to boast 12 Division I offers.
Owens was also in perfect timing with Central quarterback Cody Williams, who took home hardware as the showcase’s Top Offensive Player.
All told in addition to Owens’ and Williams’ honors, Springfield players garnered four top positional awards. Central’s Shawn Lockett won top offensive lineman while Sha’ki Holines of Commerce took home the top defensive lineman award. Commerce’s Hasan Graham was the No. 1 linebacker and Rishawn Harris of Putnam won the event’s top defensive back award.
HOLINES UNVEILS LATEST OFFER
Holines made news earlier this summer with a verbal commitment to UMass. Given his showings at camps similar to the Super 7 Showcase, he’s bound to get even more interest and offers leading up to signing day.
UConn is the latest school to offer the 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive lineman/linebacker.
He received the camp’s top defensive lineman award for his ability to dominate the 1-on-1 positional drills.
Holines has also received attention from the University of Maine.
Holines was instrumental in the Red Raiders’ turnaround and run to the Division II Western Mass. Super Bowl last season. He recorded 132 tackles with six sacks and four fumbles recovered.
CONNECTICUT YOUTH SHINES
Two of the more talked-about players from the Super 7 Showcase were from the Nutmeg State.
Arkeel Newsome, an incoming junior at Ansonia, took home the top running back award. Given his 2011 accomplishments, it’s easy to see why.
The shifty back ran for an eye-popping 3,763 yards and scored 62 touchdowns as Ansonia went 14-0 en route to the Class M state title.
Newsome already has offers from UConn and UMass and that list is likely to grow.
Isaiah Wright, who’ll be just a sophomore this fall at Holy Cross in Waterbury, made a number of great plays at the wide receiver position.
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
Two players from Staten Island were as impressive as any duo at the Super 7 Showcase.
Belfort, the 6-foot-4, 170-pounder from Tottenville, took home the camp’s top wide receiver honor. He was equally effective on deep balls as he was going across the middle. His unique combination of height and speed made it hard for defenders all day long.
Belfort is mulling offers from numerous BCS schools, including Arizona State, Boston College, UConn, Illinois, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Virginia.
Naby Sylla hails from nearby Port Richmond High School and was equally impressive on the defensive side of the ball. The 5-foot-8 cornerback earned the camp’s top defensive player award and showed great speed and instincts in one-on-one drills and the 7-on-7 portion of the event.
Sylla has interest from UConn, West Virginia, Albany and Syracuse.
The camp awarded numerous honors following the camp. The complete list is as follows:
Camp MVP: Aaron Owens RB/DB, Central (MA)
Top Offensive Player: Cody Williams QB, Cental (MA)
Top Defensive Player: Naby Sylla CB, Port Richmond (NY)
2nd Place: Ismael Figueroa, Springfield Central (MA)
1st Place: Shawn Lockett, Springfield Central (MA)
2nd Place: George Blake, East Longmeadow (MA)
1st Place: Sha’ki Holines, Commerce (MA)
2nd Place: Raishawn Finney, Ansonia (CT)
1st Place: Andrew Isaacs, Manchester (CT)
3rd Place: Blake Rise, Stafford (CT)
2nd Place: Kayjuan Bynum, Putnam (MA)
1st Place: JaQuan McKnight, Ansonia (CT)
5th Place: Mecca Gonzalez, Putnam (MA)
4th Place: Isaiah Wright, Holy Cross (CT)
3rd Place: Tavis Frasier, Putnam (MA)
2nd Place: Sam Blake, East Longmeadow (CT)
1st Place: Malique Belfort, Tottenhill (NY)
2nd Place: Wayne Lowery, Putnam (MA)
1st Place: Arkeel Newsome, Ansonia (CT)
2nd Place: Kyle Soja, Chicopee Comp (MA)
1st Place: Hasan Graham, Commerce (MA)
3rd Place: Devontae Sewell, Commerce (MA)
2nd Place: Terrell Huff, Windsor (CT)
1st Place: Rishawn Harris, Putnam (MA)