WESTFIELD – Chris Barber. Will Brewster. Hunter Cain. Joseph Delgado. Connor Fitzgerald. Jaiden Giza-Bilodeau. Jeremiah Masso, Jr. Jorge Serrano.
These eight Westfield Bombers high school senior football players have one thing in common – they very nearly had their seasons cut short one year early.
The pandemic halted the completion of the state high school hockey championships, forced the cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season, brought about several modifications to the entire high school sports landscape, and derailed the fall football season, ultimately delaying the start until “Fall II,” a season created in between the winter and spring sports seasons by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association in response to guidelines set forth by lawmakers and state and local health and school officials.
“I think it’s meant a lot to get (our players) back on the field,” Westfield High School football head coach Rob Parent said. “It has been constructive to work toward some balance, some normalcy. Even though the game has been riddled with restrictions and rules, the kids are super grateful for it.”
The season began like no other.
Westfield kicked off 2021 on the road against Chicopee Comprehensive Friday, March 19. Junior quarterback Matt Adamites tossed three touchdowns and the Bombers routed the Colts 35-0.
Westfield was stopped on its initial drive of the season, moving the ball all the way to Chicopee Comp’s 11-yard line only to be stopped on fourth-and-one. But the Bombers would not be denied.
On their second possession, Westfield drove 52 yards in nine plays. Adamites capped off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Conor Connally. On the Bombers’ third drive, Adamites hooked up with Andrew Scott for a 23-yard scoring play. The next series resulted in a 10-yard touchdown run from Barber.
A safety, a Brewster 62 yard kick return for touchdown, and another Adamites-to-Scott TD had Westfield reveling in all its glory.
“We were hungry to play, excited to play and we were healthy,” coach Parent said. “It just so happened we were playing really well at the time and guys made plays.
A showdown against the region’s premiere high school football teams, the Central Golden Eagles, which boasted athletes bound for some elite Division 1 college teams, in Week 2 was cancelled due to COVID concerns.
“I think the kids always look forward to the matchup,” coach Parent said, “because they potentially could be playing against players who possibly could start at a D1 level college or maybe even the NFL. It typically gives our kids a chance to measure up and get themselves on a scout’s radar. There was definitely some disappointment. Some players were likely disheartened they were not able to showcase their talents at that time.”
Although the coronavirus offered Westfield a bit of a reprieve of sorts from facing a powerhouse, a matchup against the #2 team in Western Massachusetts, the Minnechaug Falcons, proved to be a bit problematic. The Falcons posted a soaring 28-0 shutout.
“There is no question this year that Minnechaug was one of the top two or three teams in Western Massachusetts,” coach Parent said. “They were a really sound football team. They’re deep on both sides of the ball and extremely well-coached. We made some tough turnovers and never rebounded.”
The following week, Holyoke running backs Dylan Lubold and William Dumoulin combined for more than 300 rushing yards and three touchdowns as the Purple Knights ran past Westfield, 26-7.
It was not a runaway early on though. Westfield fell behind 8-0 from the outset but rallied to within 8-7 when junior running back Ryan Cimini plunged into the end zone from one yard out to begin the second half. Holyoke countered with 18 unanswered points to pull away.
“I think it followed the same roadmap as the Minnechaug game,” coach Parent said. “We had the opportunities but never capitalized. Holyoke did it on big plays. …Some big runs were daggers. We didn’t really respond well enough to that type of adversity.”
Westfield ran into another wall – – or rather a solid offensive and defensive line – – a week later against Agawam in their home opener at Bullens Field. It was déjà vu for the Bombers as they suffered another 26-7 loss.
Westfield’s lone touchdown for the second straight week was another one-yard Cimini plunge.
“At times we looked really, really good; at other times we had some real lapses in judgement,” coach Parent explained. “That ultimately took the wind out of our sails.”
Now, at 1-3, Westfield will attempt to snap a three-game losing streak against East Longmeadow (1-4) in their final game of the 2021 “Fall II’ season on Senior Day Friday at Bullens Field. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.
East Longmeadow will be seeking to snap a losing streak of its own, having lost to West Springfield, Agawam, Minnechaug, and Longmeadow by a combined score of 173-49 in their last four games. The Spartans lone victory also came on opening day, a 21-6 win over Amherst.
“I think both teams are struggling to find their real identity,” coach Parent said. “It’s going to be a battle of who can control those moments the best on Friday night to see who can pull it off.”
The season may not end with a traditional Thanksgiving Day game, but the Westfield Bombers will be looking to feast.
“I’m happy with our progression,” coach Parent said. “It’s just time to finish our drive.”