Saturday June 23, 2012

SPRINGFIELD -- For Antonio McClellan, the Shrine Chowder Bowl All-Star Classic had all the intensity of a football rivalry game at Monument Mountain. It could have been Lee on the other side of the line of scrimmage, rather than Central Massachusetts' best high school seniors.

The biggest difference for McClellan, though, was the game's faster pace.

"I wouldn't say it was a completely different level," McClellan, adefensive back, said. "We have a lot of great teams in Berkshire County. There was definitely a speed element involved that isn't involved when you play in Berkshire County."

McClellan was one of two Berkshire County players involved in this year's Chowder Bowl, a 14-6 Central Mass. win over Western Mass. at Springfield College. McClellan played both safety, his natural position, and cornerback for Western Mass., and St. Joseph's graduate Joe Wiggins was a wide receiver for the squad. Wiggins saw two passes come his way in the first half, catching one for 10 yards.

"One [catch] is not really my game," Wiggins said. "You always wish you could get the deep one back. You catch some, you drop some. Gotta get it out of your head."

Wiggins felt the faster pace of play -- which also featured more passing than he was used to seeing in the St. Joseph's offense -- was better for his skill set. He admitted, however, that it was tough trying to memorize an offense he's only been in for about two weeks.


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Wiggins will have to get used to that, though, since he's playing for Westfield State as a freshman in the fall.

"I feel like, because of playing in the Chowder Bowl, I'll be more successful with a fast-paced team," he said. "You've just got to learn and adapt to it. Playing two weeks at a fast pace, I've adapted to it pretty well."

Even Kevin Hinkley, Joe's father, could tell there was a difference in pace between a Crusader football game and Saturday night's Chowder Bowl.

"Joe's handling it pretty well," Hinkley said while watching a rain-soaked first half from the stands. "He seems like he's settling in, which is typical of Joe's game, too.

"It's been challenging. It's been a lot more plays to try and learn, and over a quick period of time. It's been somewhat difficult but he's definitely ready."

McClellan won't be playing football this fall -- he's attending Howard University in Washington, D.C. to major in communication -- but he cherished the opportunity to play with and against top-level talent from the Bay State.

"Everyone on the field is a great athlete at the same time, whether it's on the Western Mass. or Central Mass. team," McClellan said. "In Berkshire County, there's different levels. Someone might be a sophomore who just started. When you come to this game, everyone's a senior, everyone knows how to play."

To reach Matthew Sprague:

msprague@berkshireeagle.com,

(413) 496-6254.

On Twitter: @EagleSportsZone.