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Summer Snapshot: Springfield Central Golden Eagles

This is the fifth installment in our "Summer Snapshot" series, checking in with some of Massachusetts' top teams leading into the MIAA football season. To see all of our Summer Snapshots, CLICK HERE.

Previously this offseason, we've mused that the Springfield area talent pool is on the up and up, with players such as Amherst junior wideout Taj-Amir Torres getting a handful of offers last month. But no team in the 413 area code this year has stocked as much talent as Springfield Central, coming off a Super Bowl-winning season with many of its integral pieces intact, and speed and athleticism seemingly everywhere.

When we last left the Golden Eagles, quarterback Cody Williams was grinding through a bad ankle injury to lift his troops to a 27-0 shutout of Longmeadow, sparking head coach Valdamar Brower to remark he has "the heart of a lion and he loves the game. Nobody was going to keep him off the field. That dude's a solider." Williams, who holds offers from several local Division 1 FCS programs, will have many familiar targets back as he tries to replicate last season's success.

In the newly-aligned MIAA Division 2, the Eagles will be a heavy favorite out of the West. Can they run the gauntlet and bring home hardware again? We checked in with Central this afternoon in a photo shoot at Berte Field.

SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL AT A GLANCE

Coach: Valdamar Brower (6th year, 40-20 overall)

Last Season: 12-1, Won Division 1 West Super Bowl

Final ESPN Boston Rank: 7

Returning Starters: 14 (seven offense, seven defense)

Key Losses: WR/DB Tejano Smith, OL/DL Shawn Lockett, RB/LB Aaron Owens, OL/DL Ishmael Figueroa, WR/DB Travis Cusson, ATH Stephon Jenkins, OL/DL Adrian Filson, OL/DL Stefan Maldonato, WR/DB Bryan Rivas

Key Returnees: Sr. QB Cody Williams, Sr. ATH Ju'uan Williams, Sr. LB Kenneth Marshall, Sr. OL/DL Sean Lee, Sr. RB/DB Da'Quon Clemons, Sr. OL/DL Khalil Walker, Sr. TE/LB Luis Ortiz, Sr. ATH Malik Johnson, Sr. RB/DB Troy Morrow, Sr. LB Jon Morales, Sr. RB/LB Marcal Davis

Overview: Brower's building job at Central has been slow and steady, but after last year's Super Bowl-winning success the Eagles have evolved into a thoroughbred, with respect across the state. In the newly-aligned Division 2 West, the Eagles figure to be a heavy favorite, though some familiar foes (Putnam, Longmeadow, Minnechaug, Holyoke) figure to make life difficult along the way. In Williams the Eagles have one of the state's slickest passers, but also a winner (20-3 as a starter) with a certain urban bullheadedness not often seen in Bay State quarterback prospects. He'll have plenty of athletes to throw to on the perimeter, the most prolific his cousin Ju'uan, who will be used in a garden variety of roles on both sides of the ball. Clemons figures to be the incumbent at tailback, with his home-run capability and terrific upper body strength, but look for Morrow and Davis to be significant factors in the running game as well. Down in the trenches, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Lee is one of the state's more unheralded offensive line prospects, while the burly Walker will be the war daddy in the middle of the defensive line, plugging the inside gaps. Overall, this could be the best team yet of the Brower era at Central, and there have been some good ones. The Eagles' Sept. 13 season-opener at Everett will be appointment viewing.