Williams' heroics, Central's defense lift Eagles to title


Dec. 4, 2012
By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

WESTFIELD – For the Central High School football team, in a way, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 Western Massachusetts Super Bowl was a microcosm of their season.

Quarterback Cody Williams left the game in the second quarter after sustaining a serious ankle injury, leaving Ju'an Williams to fill in until he made a strong and triumphant return in the second half of a 0-0 game as Central topped Longmeadow High School 27-0 at Westfield State University's Alumni Field to capture its first Division 1 Super Bowl title since 2001.

With the win, the Eagles, who finished the season 12-1 overall, completed a sweep of their Western Massachusetts schedule. Their lone loss came to Everett, winner of the Eastern Massachusetts Division 1A Super Bowl, who is widely considered the best team in the state.

The game's situation was eerily similar to the way the season went for the Golden Eagles, who had to deal with the loss of Cody Williams for two games in the heart of their schedule because of a suspension stemming from an altercation during Central's win over Chicopee High School, then flourished upon his return.

Williams' injury resulted from a quarterback keeper to pick up a first down. He came out of the pile with an extreme limp, took a few plays off, and then came back in, still sporting a limp. But after fumbling, then getting the ball back before getting tackled, he left the field with the help of his teammates and appeared to be done for the day.

"It hurt really bad. I went down and couple things happened under the pile, like it normally does, and something went the wrong way," Williams said. "But I just knew I had to get back out there to help my team win."

As the offense struggled to find its way in the first half, the Eagles exhibited strong defense that prevented Longmeadow from scoring despite the fact the Lancers got within the Eagles' 20-yard line three times in the first half.

Still very much in the game thanks to the defensive effort, the Eagles found a spark in Williams' return as he helped them find their big-play ability in the second half.

Williams, who came back from the locker room at the break noticeably limping, completed five straight passes in the third quarter to get the ball moving for Central, then broke the game open with a 48-yard pass down the left sideline to Brian Rivas, who shook off a tackler and took the ball into the end zone, breaking a scoreless tie.

"Nothing was keeping me off this field. I knew I had to come back and help my team win," he said.

While Williams, obviously limited and even favoring the ankle during post-game interviews, wasn't asked to do much more after that, his re-entry into the game and huge playmaking ability gave the Eagles a huge confidence boost, knowing they could make the big play against a team that had beaten them in the previous two Super Bowls.

Ju'an Williams returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown, while DeQuon Clemoms and Aaron Owens also came up with huge plays with touchdown runs of 32 and 48 yards, respectively as the Eagles widened the gap.

Overall, Cody Williams' numbers weren't the kind you'd expect to see from a Super Bowl hero – 98 yards passing with a touchdown and two interceptions – but having a player like him was the difference, Central coach Valdamar Brower said.

"He's very committed and he's got some great tools and when you've got that combination in a player, you've got something very special," he said. "He's a leader by example, he's very mature for his age and his love for the game is unmatched."

While Williams' performance stole the show, the Central defense consistently made big play after big play to keep the Lancers off the scoreboard.

Tejano Smith picked off two passes – one that prevented a touchdown late in the second quarter and another with 2:25 left in the game that sealed the victory – while the defense stuffed the Lancers on drives that made it down to the Eagles' 2-, 19- and 13-yard line in the first half.

"We have the best defense no one talked about," Williams said.

For Brower, the defensive effort exhibited perfectly the team's philosophy that every player, whether senior or underclassmen, has an important duty to fulfill.

"We had a lot of seniors and a lot of underclassmen make plays and we had a great alignment," he said. "We didn't beat ourselves, lined up and played and the kids played to their keys and were very disciplined."

For Williams, the combination of big offensive plays and stout defense made the win a perfect end to one of Central's most successful seasons.

"This is the best team to ever play at Central, they say," he said. "We connected on everything – through the line, through the air, running the ball. Everything was put in place today."




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