Boston High School: Tejano Smith

Shriners Football: West 13, Central 0

June, 22, 2013
LEOMINSTER, Mass. -- Throughout the week leading up to the 13th Annual Shrine Chowder Bowl Classic, the Western Mass. all-stars were provided a daily history lesson by their coaches on the inadequacies of past teams who have come up short in this event.

It had been nine years since Western Mass. had last won this game. For many of these current players, they were just in elementary school at the time. With a collective promise to revamp history, Western Mass. succeeded in carrying out its promise
Friday night after shutting out the Central Mass. all-stars 13-0 at Doyle Field.

The Western Mass. defense was solid through all four quarters, keeping Central Mass. in check and forcing them into committing six turnovers, including five interceptions.

"This was a total team effort," said Springfield Central defensive back Tejano Smith, who finished with two picks. "We pushed each other and got through this. All week long we were saying when the ball is in the air it's ours."

In all, the defense held Central Mass. to just 149 yards. Anytime they tried to sustain a drive, it would end with a turnover. Western Mass piled up 237 yards of offense with East Longmeadow receiver Sam Blake hauling in four passes for 84 yards and Greenfield quarterback Zak Bartak completing 5-of-9 passes for 83 yards.

After a scoreless first quarter, Western Mass. got the break it was looking for early in the second. Smith stepped in front of a pass by Shrewsbury's Mike Coggeshall, putting the ball on the Central Mass. 28. A Blake 29 yard reception set the stage for Turners Falls running back Ryan Wilder to blast over the goal line from a yard out with 4:52 left before halftime to give Western Mass. a 6-0 lead after kicker Liam Murphy's PAT was blocked. Wilder also had a solid game as he rushed for 65 yards on 17 attempts.

"The offensive line did a great job tonight," said Wilder, who will play at Westfield State next fall. "They did a great job creating holes and getting the seams for me. It's been a pleasure coming out here and getting a win for Western Mass. It's been an awesome time doing this and getting to meet new people and making new friends."

Just prior to the half, Western Mass. had a chance to pad its lead. After Minnechaug's Demetri Strange partially blocked Shepherd Hill kicker Chris Dutting's punt, Western Mass. had the ball on its own 31. A 15-yard catch by West Springfield's Chris Lipscomb combined with a couple of runs from Springfield Central's Aaron Owens moved the ball to the Central Mass. 9 yard line. But Chicopee Comp quarterback Tom Duffy lost the handle off a snap that was recovered by Nashoba's Cam Rothfuss to deny the threat.

"We had a couple of turnovers which stung us a bit," Central Mass. and Auburn coach Jeff Cormier said. "I felt our kids played with a lot of heart. Western Mass. made some plays and key times and we needed a few more opportunities that we didn't get. We were in this game and I can't say enough about the quality of kids we have on this team.

"They battled to the end. The nature of these kids, on both teams, is they are all competitive. They didn't get here because they take plays off and I'm very proud of the way our kids especially competed tonight."

Leading by six at the break, Western Mass. knew the score was still to close for comfort. With the offense sporadic at best, it was no secret that the defense needed to continue its high-level of play for them to hold on. Early in the third, they did just that after Springfield Central defensive back Bryan Rivas picked off Leominster quarterback Garrett DelleChiaie. It was one of two interceptions made by Rivas on the night.

However the offense failed to get any points off the turnover. Another DelleChiaie pick by Smith went for naught early in the fourth after Murphy missed a 37 yard field goal attempt thus keeping the hopes of Central Mass. alive. But moments later, Coggeshall had his pass interception by St. Joesph's of Pittsfield defensive back Jon Bianchi.

Bianchi's interception had Western Mass. setting up camp on the Central Mass. 32. Not about to let this latest opportunity fall by the way side, Wilder ran off tackle for 16 yards, and moments later, Duffy connected with Blake for a 13 yard scoring strike with 3:54 remaining. Following Murphy's PAT, Western Mass. was now in control leading by 13.

"Sam Blake was open all night," Duffy said. "He's an incredible athlete. I knew all I had to do was throw it up there and he would catch it. Our coaches preached to us every day that we were 1-10-1 against Central Mass. overall and we knew we had so much talent coming out of the west this year. We had a two hour ride to get here and we didn't want to come here for nothing. It's a very humbling experience to be here and I feel honored to have played in this game."

On the final Central Mass. possession of the evening, they managed to drive to the Western Mass. 30 in hopes of avoiding the shut out. However, the defense continued to prosper, forcing them to turn the ball over on downs and allowing Western Mass. to run out the clock and celebrate after nine grueling years. Central Mass. still holds a 10-2-1 lead in the series.

Recap: No. 8 Springfield Central 31, Minnechaug 8

November, 22, 2012
WILBRAHAM, Mass. -– In a matchup that could be seen in next week’s playoffs, Springfield Central scored 31 unanswered points to take down Minnechaug, 31-8 in the annual Thanksgiving Day game at Falcon Field in Wilbraham.

Central (10-1) was trailing 8-0 early in the second quarter. But a six-minute, 66-yard drive, along with a key defensive stand, helped the Golden Eagles take the lead in a span of 26 seconds.

Junior quarterback Cody Williams and senior running back Aaron Owens took control on the ground, setting up Central inside the 10-yard line of the Falcons (7-4). Even when a pair of consecutive penalties (holding and delay of game) pushed the Eagles to a long 2nd-and-goal, Williams was able to find Travis Cusson in the end zone to get on the board. Central converted the two-point conversion to tie the score.

On the first play of Minnechaug’s ensuing drive, quarterback Kevin White over threw a pair of receivers and Tejano Smith came away with the pick. The senior defensive back brought it back to the 31-yard line before it was brought back due to penalty.

“The ball was in the air and my coach [defensive backs coach Julius Walker] yelled, ‘Get it’,” said Smith. “When the ball is in the air, I turn into a receiver.”

Smith would stay on the field on offensive and catch a 48-yard strike from Williams on first down, giving Central a 16-8 lead.

“He [Smith] is a great athlete,” said Central head coach Valadamar Brower. “He’s becoming a special football player. He has some great instincts.”

“I think he [Smith] is most underrated player in Western Mass.,” added Williams. “He deserves a lot more credit for what he does. He brings stuff to the table every time.”

Central started with the ball in the second half and scored on the third play of the half with Williams hitting senior Bryan Rivas with a screen pass for 56-yard touchdown. Rivas streaking down the sideline, hesitated and waited for his blockers, before cutting back into the end zone opening the lead, 23-8.

The Golden Eagles added a score in the fourth quarter to seal the game with a 10-yard touchdown run by junior Troy Morrow.

Williams ended the game eight-for-10 with 152 passing yard and three touchdown passes. Owens had 67 of Central’s 177 rushing yards.
Sheehan had game-high 78 rushing yards off 17 carries.

Not all about offense for Central: Thursday morning was a good example of Central’s toughness of defensive. Following the Smith’s touchdown reception, Minnechaug responded with a 76-yard kickoff return by Sheehan that gave the Falcons a 1st-and-goal from the Golden Eagle’s nine-yard line with 1:27 in the first half.

The Golden Eagles were helped out with a false start and an offensive pass interference that pushed the Falcons back. Central was able to knock down one of White’s passes in the end zone, before DaQuon Clemons picked off White’s next pass on the one-yard line, as Central took a lead into the locker room.

“Our defense is very tight,” said Smith. “Our red zone, we practice that all the time. Our safeties stepped up today.”

Twice in the second half, with Minnechaug on Central’s side of the field, the Golden Eagles were able to force fumbles and end solid drives by the Falcons.

The offense was led by Williams’ three touchdown passes, but the most important part of the Golden Eagles offense was the offensive line or the “hogs as they are referred to. Williams was sacked during the game, although whistled for several holding penalties, the o-line gave the mobile Williams enough time to roll out and make plays with either his feet or his arm.

“Those guys are phenomenal,” said Williams. “They’re my favorite guys on the team. I probably shouldn’t say that, but if you feed them, they protect you and good things happen.”

Prelude to the playoffs: This Thanksgiving Day game could be a preview of a matchup in the playoffs. Central and Minnechaug will both be there, just a matter of how the playoff picture will unfold.

In 2011, these two teams had to play in both Thanksgiving and the following Tuesday for the playoffs.

“Last season we had the opportunity of playing Minnechaug on Thanksgiving and then on Tuesday, so we’re in a little bit of familiar territory,” said the fifth-year Central coach. “With the experience of doing that last year, I guess we’ll try to build off that.”

However, this could be a better Minnechaug team Central could see in the playoffs. The Falcons have already had quarterbacks Alan McDonald (shoulder) and Anthony Roughgarden (shoulder) unable to take snaps under center. That has forced White to step into that role.

White has been the signal caller since Roughgarden went down in a loss to Central on Nov. 19. In that game White was 2-for-4 with 18 yards, his first snaps since a month earlier against Westfield.

“He didn’t have any practice,” said Minnechaug head coach Steve Allosso. “That was poor coaching on my part. Today he had a week and a half to practice and it showed.”

Allosso said that Roughgarden has a 50 percent chance to take snaps again for Minnechaug, while McDonald has been playing slot receiver, while battling the shoulder injury.

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

October, 13, 2012

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.”