The 2007 Super Bowl run was special for the Swampscott football program.
Capturing its first title since a 28-21 win over Catholic Memorial for Division 2 honors in 1972, the Big Blue finished 12-1 behind a skilled offense stocked with playmakers.
Two of those key contributors — Chris Cameron and Kyle Shonio — have come full circle as assistant coaches.
Cameron, now the team’s offensive coordinator, and Shonio, the running backs coach, aren’t alone. It’s becoming a common trend in Swampscott for former players to give back to the program.
“We hit a peak and had some very successful teams,” said Shonio. “Now, our kids buy in and we’re getting back to where we were in 2007.”
In 2007, the Big Blue found their footing after an 21-14 early-season loss to Gloucester. Swampscott had won three of its first four games by one possession and ran straight into the path of a Fishermen squad that went 13-0 en route to a Super Bowl that year, too.
Swampscott (9-3) followed a similar script this season. The Big Blue dropped two early games — a 33-30 shootout against Lynn English in the season opener and a 7-6 nail-biter against Danvers in Week 5. With the Big Blue’s berth in the Division 5 Super Bowl secured, they suffered a 22-16 last-second setback to Marblehead on Thanksgiving.
But their Super Bowl matchup against West champion Amherst-Pelham (11-0) on Saturday at Gillette Stadium (1:30 p.m.) will be their stiffest test yet.
“With as tough a schedule as we play during the regular season, our kids won’t be intimidated,” said Swampscott coach Bob Serino. “Win or lose this year, we’ve immediately move onto the next opponent and it’s all Amherst this week.”
Between the loss to Danvers Oct. 11 and Thanksgiving, the Big Blue rattled off six straight wins, outscoring opponents 191-39.
Last year, Swampscott advanced to the EMass final before falling, 45-14, to a Scituate team that Shonio describes as one of the best he’s ever seen.
“When you lose a big game, or any game, it lights that fire in your belly to work harder,” said Serino. “Our losses this year have made us stronger but we’ve matured from last year in that we’re not hanging our heads.
“We knew it would happen with this tight-knit group of seniors, they hold each other accountable.”
The same goes for the 2007 team, which also featured young talent such as Cameron, then a junior, and Shonio, a sophomore.
In 2005, the Swampscott eighth- and ninth-grade Pop Warner team advanced to the EMass final. The next year, the Big Blue junior varsity team posted an undefeated season. A year later, Swampscott was the Division 3 champion after a 22-6 Super Bowl win over Medfield.
“At that point it didn’t feel like anybody could take us,” said Shonio. “There was no fear from any of us and we just followed the lead of our coaches.”
What made Cameron and Shonio decide to come back and coach?
Serino was a big factor. The duo played Pop Warner under Serino, who held that role for 16 years before he was hired as the offensive line coach on the varsity staff in 2007.
“Coach Serino and the Swampscott program helped me with life lessons,” said Cameron. “We have a really rich history of football tradition passed down through generations. We always hear stories from alumni about how people really care about our team.”
But another factor was simply giving back to the football family in town.
Both Cameron and Shonio feel the same way: They made memories on the football field and it was time to help a new generation do the same.
“Growing up watching the Big Blue makes you want to play,” said Shonio. “It seriously is like a family, and that attracted me to come back and pass on the memories I made in my teen years.”
While the coaches made their marks on the program as players more than a decade ago, the experience of coaching their alma mater has been even more rewarding.
For Cameron, it’s not a surprise so many alums have returned in recent years.
“It’s a testament to the pride we have in our town,” said Cameron. “It’s a tradition to give back and it feels good doing it.”
Added Shonio: “It’s even more rewarding as a coach. It’s such a different feeling when you get these kids to buy in.”