Saturday, December 1, 2012
Recap: Springfield Central 27, Longmeadow 0
By Jordan Higgs
WESTFIELD, Mass. -- Brian Rivas broke a tackle and sprinted down the right sideline to break the deadlock between Longmeadow and Central just three minutes into the second half. Cody Williams clapped his hands together and limped towards the sideline, having delivered the strike to Rivas to put his team up early in the 3rd quarter. He winced in pain as he shambled off the field on his broken ankle.
After throwing an interception on Central’s opening drive and being forced into a three and out on the following one, Williams found himself at the bottom of the pile early in the 2nd quarter. Something snapped, and though Williams attempted to return that drive, he was ushered back to the sideline shortly thereafter. He remained there during Central’s next possession, up until the half.
“It hurt really bad,” Williams said about his ankle. “Something went the wrong way, but I knew I had to get back out here and help my team win.”
With 4:36 remaining in the 3rd quarter Ju’an Williams returned a Longmeadow punt 68 yards for Central's second score of the game to put his team up 15-0. The writing was on the wall for the Lancers. DeQuon Clemons scored from 32 yards out with 5:33 left in the 4th, and after a series of comical holding penalties and an Aaron Owens touchdown in the final minutes, the Central Eagles emerged victorious, 27-0.
A perfect game, coming against a team that had beaten Central two years in a row in the Western Mass Division I Super Bowl.
Cody Williams Inspires: When Williams limped off the field in the first half, his teammates were justifiably crushed, but his astonishing return lifted their spirits. Immobilized by his injured ankle, he trusted his offensive line to protect him as he searched for an opening in the stifling Longmeadow defense. They protected him, and he repaid them in turn only a few plays later with that touchdown. Though he wouldn’t complete a pass after that drive and finished with just 98 yards passing, his presence was enough to spark his teammates.
“When he went down some of the kids were very emotional,” said Central Coach Valdamar Brower. “When he was able to come play it was kind of unexpected, so I think that just fired the kids up even more.”
Brower added, “Cody Williams 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.”
Defense Carries the Day: With Cody Williams in and out during the first two quarters and Longmeadow’s offense grinding down the field, it was up to the Central defense to keep their team in the game. Despite turning the ball over three times in the first half, Central held their opponent scoreless until the break. Their line was dominant, keying on Longmeadow running back Austin Sierra and holding him to just 37 yards on 16 touches.
Time and again they got critical stops, forcing the Lancers to turn it over on downs three times. Longmeadow finished with 208 yards offensively, and the Eagles bent but didn’t break.
When Longmeadow was forced out of their comfort zone and into the air, the Eagles took advantage. If DeQuan Clemons' 32 yard touchdown run was the final nail in the coffin for the Lancers, then Tejano Smith’s second interception late in the fourth simply buried them.
“No regrets,” said Central’s Ju’an Williams. “Leave it all out on the field, we got nothing left after today. 365 days we had to wait to get back here and we made the best of it.”
Winning as a Team: Before the game Central declined to have the names of any individual players announced, fitting for a win that was all about the team. The Central scores came from four different players on both offense and special teams, and their defense was flawless in the shutout. No individual player had more than 100 yards for the Central Eagles. The post-game message from coach Brower was clear: this was a team victory.
“This is a great accomplishment,” Brower told his team after the game. “It’s all about the team and Central family. Everyone contributed to this. It’s a true team championship.”
“We talked at halftime about the team. No matter what happens everybody’s got to step up, it’s got to be a team win,” Brower said. “It’s just about the team.”
“We connect on everything,” Cody Williams said. “Through the line, through the air, running the ball; everything was put in place today. Obviously the defense did a great job too, and now we are champions.”