Boston High School: Kenneth Marshall

Williams entering folklore territory at No. 6 Central

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
2:10
PM ET
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- It would be so easy for Cody Williams to delve deep into the abyss of hype that encompasses him.

Nobody could blame him if he did.

Williams is regarded a hero of sorts around these parts. He is quarterback of the defending Division 1 Western Mass. Super Bowl champion Springfield Central High School, leading the Golden Eagles to their first postseason title in 11 years and, in the process, helped pull Central out from under the long shadow cast down by their well-established gridiron neighbors to the south -- stalwart Longmeadow High.

The countless number of congratulatory handshakes and hearty pats on the back Williams has received since Central's 27-0 defeat down of Longmeadow last December is enough to inflate anyone's ego. But not Williams. The senior has managed to keep both feet firmly planted on the ground, shrugging off the new-found attention that has received. For Williams, everything starts and finishes with team.

“I’m not into individual awards or personal accolades or things of that nature,” said Williams, who stands 6-3, 180 pounds and has a rifle for a right arm. “I only have one goal in mind and that is for our team to win a state championship. Nothing more than that.”

But deep down you know Williams is proud of his team's Super Bowl triumph over the Lancers -- a program that has barreled its way to the forefront of the Western Mass. football landscape, and has rightfully earned its place among state's very best over the past three decades with a record 13 Super Bowls to its credit, is certainly a major achievement. Factor in that Central lost to Longmeadow in the 2010 and 2011 Super Bowls, makes last year's feat all the more rewarding.

"We knew going into that game they had beaten us the previous two Super Bowls," Williams said. "We went out there and were determined not to let it happen again. It came down to who wanted it more. We just went out and executed and we prevailed."

By his own admission, Williams adheres to the ‘that was then, this is now’ theory. What took place nine months ago is in the past. The immediate focus now sits squarely on the present and future, with the realization that more work needs to be done.

Williams says his concentration centers on the larger picture in terms of maintaining Central's resurgence and its continuing efforts to transform itself into a top tier program. Winning a state championship would obviously do wonders to fortify that objective.

With last year’s MIAA ruling to do away with sectional Super Bowls by integrating a statewide six-division playoff system, the stakes have become a lot higher.

Central, a Division 2 entree, is considered one of the early favorites to compete for a state crown next winter, and it has the quarterback in place to do so. But the journey won't be easy.

“We know everyone is going to give us their best shot, especially after winning a Super Bowl” said Williams. “We just need to go out and play every game like it's a Super Bowl. We need to play all out at 100 percent full speed, rep to rep with no regrets. Just like we did last year.”

The Golden Eagles open their season on September 6th at Everett, the only team to defeat the Golden Eagles last season. They also face several formidable adversaries within the restructured AA Conference including Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Westfield and cross-city rival Putnam.

Having played sparingly as a freshman at the varsity level, Williams took full control of the quarterbacking reins at the start of his sophomore season and hasn't let go since. He is 20-3 as a starter, completing 197 of 325 passes for 3,076 yards, 35 TDs and only 12 picks.

When the circumstances call for it, Williams will run with the football too. He has gained 223 yards on 88 attempts, reaching the end zone 7 times.

Williams' skill set and ascending attributes has earned him a spot among the top-rated quarterbacks in the state. Enough so that he has already accepted a scholarship offer to attend Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ next fall. Monmouth, a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, will be part of the Big South Conference upon Williams’ arrival in 2014.

Williams had received interest from several Division 1 schools but was often told he was their second or third choice at quarterback. Therefore, after receiving solid overtures from the University at Albany and Monmouth, Williams says his decision in selecting Monmouth consequently came down to them having the two programs of study he was interested in -- sports management and physical education.

Sixth-year Central head coach Valdamar Brower, who has had an up-close and personal account of Williams' progressions over the past three years, always believed his star signal-caller could play at a high-level collegiately. A stellar player in his own right at nearby Northampton High School and later a two time Division 1-AA All American defensive end at UMass, Brower offers no hesitation in his praise for Williams and his unlimited potential.

“He has grown physically, he has grown mentally and he has matured,” said Brower. “I’ve seen all three phases and I’m very excited about his development. He has great upside and that's not going to stop because Cody has a great passion for the game and is always looking to get better and he will get better.”

Williams' maturation process will be the one intangible most-closely examined this season. During a game against Chicopee High School last year, a skirmish broke out in which Williams was ejected for allegedly throwing a punch at a Chicopee player. What followed was an automatic two-game suspension as prescribed by MIAA rules which states any player ejected for punching another player must sit out the next two games. Although the decision was publicly scrutinized by Central coaches and players alike, Williams accepted his punishment and stood along the sidelines during those two games supporting to his teammates.

“To be honest I was and still am ashamed of myself for that,” said Williams, a team captain. “I realize I have to watch what I do and set the right example for other kids. My passion for this game is insane but I also know I need to control what I say and do.”

In spite of Williams’ absence, Central won its next two games with Williams’ cousin Ju’an Williams filling in as signal-caller and helping lead the Golden Eagles. When Cody Williams returned, the wins continued, culminating in their Super Bowl victory to cap off a remarkable 12-1 season.

“Nobody on this team ever likes to lose,” stated Williams. “Our goal is to be at the top and stay there. It’s always been that way no matter who is out on the field.”

Williams considers himself a football purist. He takes his craft quite seriously and spends most of his free time breaking down game film in an effort to dissect weaknesses and tendencies within an opposing team’s defensive scheme.

That inclination began early in his high school career and continues today. As a freshman, Williams got an early baptism to the various nuances and up-tempo speed of the varsity game first hand after filling in for then starter Tyler Dowd, who was sidelined with an injury. By his sophomore season, having absorbed valuable on-the-field experience as a freshman, Williams' progressions were now ahead of schedule. A strong, accurate throwing arm, his ability to read defenses and make adjustments on the fly and a perpetual work-ethic convinced his coaches he be moved to the top of the depth chart.

“He’s relentless in trying to get better, trying to learn and trying to make his teammates better,” Brower said. “He has a very high football I.Q. and continues to progress because he never stops in trying to become a better football player. As a team we have a lot of expectations this year.

"In regards to Cory, he had a big leadership role last year as a junior so we are looking for that to continue again this year. He is a lot more mature than I was at his age. Cody just needs to remain humble, be ready to fight and not lose who he is. A lot of people will pat you on the head but you still need to keep it going. You can never be content in this game. You constantly need to keep improving.”

Williams' father, Rich, serves as an assistant on the Central coaching staff. Despite having his father on the field with him, Williams says there has never been any preferential treatment given nor is any expected.

“He’s told me how it is ever since I was little,” said Williams of his father. “There is no parental favoritism here at all. He’s supportive of me but he tells you like it is. To be honest, if it were the other way around, it would have gotten me no where.”

Williams’ other primary support system comes from his mother Sarah, brother Luis Ortiz, brother Richard and sister Corina. All of whom, according to Williams, have played a major role in his maturity and strong upbringing.

SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL AT A GLANCE
Coach: Valdamar Brower (6th year, 40-20 overall)
Last Season: 12-1, Won Division 1 West Super Bowl
Returning Starters: 14 (seven offense, seven defense)
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
Outlook: 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. 6 season-opener at Everett will be appointment viewing.

Summer Snapshot: Springfield Central Golden Eagles

August, 15, 2013
8/15/13
1:05
AM ET
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.

CCSU offers Central's Williams, Marshall

June, 30, 2013
6/30/13
1:13
AM ET
Central Connecticut State offered two of Springfield Central's top Class of 2014 football recruits, quarterback Cody Williams and tight end/linebacker Kenneth Marshall, earlier today.

In 11 games last year, the 6-foot-3, 170-pound Williams completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,797 yards, with 20 touchdowns to just five interceptions. He also added 187 yards and five scores on the ground, as the Golden Eagles went 12-1 and captured the MIAA Division 1 West Super Bowl Championship.

Williams received his first Division 1 FCS offer earlier this week, from Monmouth University (N.J.). He has been seeing varying degrees of interest from Division 1 programs across the Northeast, including Boston College, UMass, UConn, Duke, Colgate, Fordham and Rutgers.

Marshall, a 6-foot, 190-pound outside linebacker, started all 13 games last year for the Eagles. He ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 64 (seven for loss), and also registered three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.

Recap: No. 9 Central 21, No. 16 'Meadow 14

October, 13, 2012
10/13/12
2:07
AM ET


LONGMEADOW, Mass. -– When Ju’uan Williams was asked to slide into the quarterback role in place of his suspended star cousin two weeks ago, a position he hadn’t played since the fourth grade, he didn’t just serve for Springfield Central. He flat out dazzled, putting up over 200 yards from scrimmage in a blowout of East Longmeadow.

Tonight, amidst a 14-all deadlock with rival Longmeadow, with the ball in field goal range and 15 seconds left in regulation, Williams didn’t just bring in the play from the sidelines, a power-option right out of a two-back shotgun look aimed at simply moving the ball to the right hash mark for roughly a 30-yard field goal attempt.

No, it’s never as simple as just that with these Central kids. Somebody’s always got to make it interesting.

Williams brought the play into the huddle, told his linemen “Leave it all on the field”, then proceeded to cut back the opposite way from that intended hash mark to paydirt, a 15-yard scamper with six seconds left, to give the Golden Eagles (5-1) a dramatic 21-14 comeback win over Longmeadow that folks on Roosevelt Ave. will surely be talking about for a while.

It’s the second year in a row the Eagles have beaten the Lancers (4-2) in the regular season, having won 21-20 last October in equally-dramatic fashion. But it was also a revenge game; the Lancers rolled Central, 35-7, in the rematch at Gillette Stadium last December for the Division 1 West Super Bowl title.

“This game was personal,” said tight end Luis Ortiz. “We came out here, we fought, and we give it to our big men [the offensive line]. Without them, we can’t do anything.”

Williams (16 carries, 68 yards, TD; 8-of-14, 129 yards, 2 TD) was equally deferential to the trench, where linemen like Ishmael Figueroa and Shawn Lee seemed to get more push as time elapsed.

“The hogs were working to get the outside,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without them, and everyone that was blocking for me.”

But really, this was about a team collectively making a statement with its two biggest stars on the sideline. Quarterback Cody Williams, the cousin of Ju’uan, served the second of a two-game suspension tonight for his involvement in a fight on the field two weeks ago. Two-way lineman Shawn Lockett, a preseason ESPN Boston All-State selection, hobbled off the field in the game’s opening series, re-aggravating the ankle injury that has already kept him out of three games this season.

And the way this game started off made one wonder for a second if this was going to get out of hand. The Lancers opened the game with a 10-minute, 16-play, 72-yard drive, punctuated with a one-yard sneak by quarterback Johnny Falcone on fourth and goal. Central’s ensuing drive ended after three minutes thanks to Frankie Elder’s tip-drill interception, and the Lancers put together another monster drive. This one went 91 yards and nearly six minutes, capped again with a one-yard sneak by Falcone.

The Eagles responded on the ensuing drive with the first of two well-timed touchdown strikes from Ju’uan to receiver Tejano Smith (3 catches, 31 yards, 2 TD). Facing third and goal from the five, Smith crashed to the back left pylon on a smash route and hauled it in easily amid single-coverage.

After some struggles in the third quarter, Central got a good break early in the fourth when Lancers fullback Austin Sierra (13 carries, 90 yards) fumbled the ball at his own 40 yard line, and Kenneth Marshall quickly pounced on it and rolled out of bounds.

A half-dozen plays later, Smith came up with the play of the night, this time rolling to the right back pylon as Ju’uan threw a high knuckler that came off his fingertips looking like it was going to sail over the back line. But Smith came down with it, diving with about a foot of real estate to go and getting a foot in before rolling out of bounds. That tied the game at 14 with 6:31 to go.

After forcing a three-and-out on the next series, Central took the ball at its own 30 with 4:04 to go, and Ju’uan did the rest, leading them on a nine-play, 70-yard drive using a mix of spread and offset power-I looks out of the no-huddle and punching it in with his 15-yard change-of-direction rush.

The Education of Ju’uan: Ju’uan Williams last played quarterback in fourth grade before this current stint, and naturally it wasn’t a totally polished effort tonight, veiling play-fakes thinly and sometimes overthrowing his intended receiver, which ended up costly at least once (Elder had a second tip-drill pick negated on a roughing the passer penalty).

Tonight, Ju’uan was at his best seemingly when he was at his most unpredictable, taking off on scrambles or rolling out to his right and leading a short crossing receiver with some soft touch. He has worn many hats so far in his time with the Eagles, and will probably wear many more, but the one overarching theme with it all is speed.

With Cody Williams under center, the Eagles have a more balanced attack, able to drop back rather than play on the run. But with Ju’uan under center, it’s a unique look, essentially putting 11 on 11 with the added threat of extending the play with his feet.

“We’re spreading the receivers out, and if Ju’uan doesn’t see anyone open, he just runs,” Smith said. “He can run it. He can run it.”

You can darn well bet Ju’uan has been consulting his cousin Cody a lot these past two weeks -– “It’s been amazing, he’s been there every step of the way,”. But with Cody coming off his suspension and resuming his role under center this week comes potentially a new added ripple. All that time with the scout team has taught Brower a few more things about Cody’s ability.

“He was scout safety [these past two weeks], and we found out he can play a little safety,” Brower said of Cody Williams. “He was excited about that. He made the scout defense pretty competitive.”

Underrated? Asked about the play calls on Smith’s two touchdown grabs, Brower chuckled, “25 T.J. Smith.”

It’s easy to overlook Smith, listed comfortably at 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds. But he seems to be acutely aware of the spacing he has to work with, how he’ll exploit it, and seems to have this intuitive nose for making worthwhile athletic plays.

Take his second touchdown, for instance, a ball that appeared to be overthrown at first glance. Whereas some may have slowed up when seeing the ball, Smith accelerated to get under it, then laid out with a few short steps to go. Smith told reporters of the catch, “It just came to me, really,” saying he just wanted to get underneath the ball and let his feet come along for the ride.

“Ju’uan threw a knuckleball, and I had to adjust to it,” Smith said. “It came out of the dark, but it was a good throw.”

“He’s a great athlete, man,” Brower said. “He studies a lot of film, and he studies a lot of different things. He just loves football, loves football, and he’s a great athlete. The kid high-jumps 5-11 and he’s about 5-4. He’s just a little freak.

“So, you can’t really teach that stuff. He kinda just does it in practice, you know, it just kind of comes natural to him. He’s just a good athlete.”

Good athlete, but underrated? Smith seems to carry a chip on his shoulder. When asked about how he got open on his two touchdown catches, he veered off onto one of his favorite topics.

“They went man, and honestly, I think I’m one of the best in Western Mass.,” he smiled, adding with a laugh, “But I guess I’m underrated.”

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