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D4 SUPER BOWL: DUXBURY VS. GRAFTON

Division 4 Super Bowl: The versatility of Chris Walsh has driven Duxbury to the cusp of a state title

Chris Walsh (5) and Duxbury teammate Adam Barr (16) celebrate after one of his 18 touchdown receptions this season, this score in a Patriot League victory over Hingham.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Senior captain Chris Walsh has shattered Duxbury’s single-season record with 18 touchdown receptions. But it is easy to forget that football isn’t even his No. 1 sport.

He absolutely loves football, and will miss the game when it’s gone, but Walsh is committed to play baseball at Northeastern University. A speedy and smooth playmaker for the Dragons, he combines athleticism, grace and fortitude regardless of the season.

“Chris might be the best athlete I’ve ever seen,” fellow Duxbury senior captain Brendan Bonner said. “He’s putting up record-breaking numbers for football while being a Division 1 baseball commit as a shortstop/outfielder. It’s even more impressive how much of a great teammate and friend he is.”

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When the No. 1 Dragons (11-0) face No. 2 Grafton (11-1) in the Division 4 Super Bowl Friday night (Gilletee Stadium, 8 p.m.), they’ll continue to lean on the dynamic duo of Walsh and senior quarterback Matt Festa, as they have all season.

Walsh, a 6-foot, 180-pound deep threat, has 47 catches for 1,071 yards in 10 games, averaging 22.79 yards per reception. He’s also thrown a touchdown pass, excelled as a returner, and shown his versatility as a holder.

“We can put him anywhere on the field, and we pretty much do,” Duxbury coach Matt Landolfi said. “If need be, we’ll put him at quarterback, defensive back, wherever we need a big play.”

Walsh started both sports at a young age and begged his parents to put him in tackle football until they finally agreed. He grew up idolizing the varsity players and dreaming of taking the field himself one day. One of those players was his brother, Cam, who also went on to play baseball at Northeastern.

Specializing in two sports has never felt like a chore. He loves the variety doing so provides and takes lessons from each that he applies to the other. Walsh believes cutting and changing direction at a high level is crucial in both sports.

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“That’s helped me tremendously,” said Walsh, a shortstop on the diamond. “In my training, that’s a lot that I’ve worked on.”

With Festa on varsity, the Dragons needed a freshman QB back in 2019, and they turned to Walsh to fill the void. Walsh was skeptical at first, but he grew to love the position. Coach Mike Armandi told him it would help him long term, and Walsh quickly realized he was right.

Walsh said the experience he gained as a QB has paid dividends as a varsity receiver. Seeing the play develop from a different angle helped him study cornerbacks’ tendencies.

Walsh excelled as a sophomore and junior and learned from 2022 seniors Brady Madigan (University of New Hampshire) and Bowman Rhinesmith (Tufts University), both during and after practice. He continued to work on his conditioning and speed in the offseason.

“Last year was a good year, but I knew I was going to be put in a bigger role this year,” Walsh said. “I was ready to take on that challenge.”

Landolfi said the Dragons use Walsh as a barometer on offense. If opposing teams double him, Duxbury typically runs the ball or throws to the opposite side. If teams single cover him, they view that as an advantage.

Matt Landolfi and the Dragons will meet Grafton in the Division 4 Super Bowl.DebeeTlumacki

Walsh has the ability to take the top off the defense and beat defenders with his blazing speed, and he also has the poise to win tight, contested battles. He praised the offensive linemen for giving Festa time and Festa for delivering the ball on the money where only he can get it.

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Landolfi noted how Walsh never showboats and simply makes the play in the end zone and gives the ball back to the referee. He said he plays football the way it’s supposed to be played.

“He’s a person that everyone on the team looks up to,” Bonner said. “He pretty much can do anything.”


Trevor Hass can be reached at trevor.hass@globe.com.