FOXBOROUGH — Playing in a new division, in a new statewide format, Springfield Central proved it can be a championship-caliber program at any level by defeating Central Catholic, 22-15, in the Division 1 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium Thursday night.
Springfield (10-2), which won Division 3 state titles in 2018 and 2019, moved up this season under the new alignment, and became the only public school other than Everett to win a D1 title since the MIAA moved to a playoff format in 2013.
“I’m excited for our team,” said Springfield coach Valdamar Brower, a former All-American at UMass Amherst.
“I’m from Northampton, I played at UMass Amherst, and now I live in Springfield. So I’m all ‘413.’ I’m excited to represent the area, and I want to keep the area growing and represent Western Mass. all day.”
Central Catholic (11-2) topped Springfield, 67-52, in a shootout to open the season, but both defenses showed their growth in the rematch.
Springfield’s defensive line, led by juniors Bryce Gentry-Warrick and Josiah Griffin, controlled the line of scrimmage all night, forcing Merrimack Valley Conference MVP Ayden Pereira (12 for 24, 143 passing yards, 2 TDs, INT) to scramble and ad-lib in an effort to make plays.
Pereira torched the Golden Eagles for 610 total yards and 10 touchdowns on Sept. 10, but his Raiders could only convert 4 of 10 third downs with his teammates combining for just 44 rushing yards on 12 carries.
“We were prepared since Week 1,” said Gentry-Warrick, who accounted for three tackles for loss. “Like Coach [Brower] says, we don’t practice to beat somebody, we practice to beat everybody. That was our mentality coming into the game, and we executed.”
Springfield’s offense impressed early thanks to hard-nosed running by junior Tariq Thomas (27 carries, 167 yards, TD). Junior quarterback William “Pop” Watson (12 for 24, 187 yards, TD) opened the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal and provided several clutch throws on third and fourth down to spot the Golden Eagles a 22-8 lead.
Trailing, 22-8, at halftime, Pereira came out in the second half and tossed a 35-yard strike to Justice McGrail, ran for a 33-yard gain, and scrambled away from the rush to find Ty Cannistraro (4 receptions, 47 yards, 2 TDs) for his second touchdown of the night to make it a one-score game.
But despite a rash of penalties (15 infractions totaling 138 yards), the Golden Eagles were able to string together a 10-minute, clock-killing drive in the fourth quarter with Thomas battling through injury to keep the chains moving.
“Tariq Thomas, that’s my little cousin,” said Watson. “I told him, ‘You have the city on your back. Let’s go. This is all going to be on you.’ That young man, I love him to death.”
Central Catholic regained possession with 1:01 remaining at its 19-yard line, but Springfield senior wide receiver Joseph Griffin stepped in at safety and came up with a game-sealing interception to secure the three-peat.
“Both teams played better defense than the first game,” said Central Catholic coach Chuck Adamopoulos.
“It was a good hard game. We just didn’t get off the field when we needed to at the end. But my kids were awesome this year, and I’m proud of them. We lost to a really good team tonight.”
Springfield Central 22, Central Catholic 15
at Gillette Stadium
Springfield Central (10-2) 8 14 0 0 — 22
Central Catholic (11-2) 8 0 7 0 — 15
SC — William Watson 7 run (Kamari Latney run)
CC — Ty Cannistaro 27 pass from Ayden Pereira (Justice McGrail pass from Ayden Pereira)
SC — Tariq Thomas 3 run ( run)
SC — Tykarryon Daniels 20 pass from William Watson (Joseph Griffin Jr. pass from Kamari Latney)
CC — Ty Cannistaro 6 pass from Ayden Pereira (Mike Ryan kick)
RUSHING — CC, Ayden Pereira 12-40, Matthias Latham 8-35, Ty Cannistaro 1-16, Nathel Achuo 1-3, Markys Bridgewater 1-(-1), Justice McGrail 1-(-9); SC, Tariq Thomas 27-167, Tykarryon Daniels 3-20, William Watson 6-9, Shaun Dez Buckhannon 1-3.
PASSING — CC, Ayden Pereira 12-24-1—143; SC, William Watson 13-24—187.
RECEIVING — CC, Ty Cannistaro 4-47, Justice McGrail 2-40, Preston Zinter 4-39, Andrew Lesofsky 1-9, Matthias Latham 1-8; SC, Joseph Griffin Jr. 6-87, Tykarryon Daniels 3-43, Kevin Jackson 2-33, Brendan Guy 1-15, Tariq Thomas 1-9.