WEST SPRINGFIELD -- For the first time in a while, the numbers are up when it comes to Berkshire County football players suiting up for Division III teams in the Pioneer Valley.
At least one coach is pretty happy about that.
"Berkshire County football is good football. I think a lot of people don’t realize it and it’s not as recruited as heavily as it should be," said Steve Marino, who is in his 23rd year as the head football coach at Westfield State.
Marino and the other Western Mass. college coaches were in West Springfield this week for the annual National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame coaches and media luncheon.
Five former Berkshire football players play for Marino at Westfield (1-1), and four of them are freshmen. Defensive back Aaron Biasin of Lee, wide receiver Joe Wiggins of St. Joseph’s, linebacker Jared Genzabella of Wahconah Regional and offensive lineman Nick Gagnon of Pittsfield joined junior defensive back Kyle Quagliano from Mount Greylock on the Owls’ roster. Biasin is behind the learning curve because of an early-season injury.
"They’re good players and we’re happy to get them," said Marino. "I think down the road they’re going to be kids that are going to help us."
There are three freshmen on the roster at Western New England. Hoosac Valley has given head coach Keith Emery freshman running back Judge Duval and freshman linebacker Zach Lancia. Freshman wide receiver Zach Washburn from Wahconah is also listed on the roster.
Fullback Brodie Quinn, a junior from Pittsfield, continues to play a good role at Springfield College.
Marino credits Westfield assistant coach Tom Bell, a former Hoosac Valley head coach, with the inroads into the Berkshires.
The Westfield coach said that the freshmen aren’t quite ready to produce yet, but he has high hopes for the former Crusaders wide receiver.
"Joe Wiggins is going to be a great player," Marino said. "He’s just trying to figure everything out and learn the playbook.
"He’s very athletic and he’s a great kid. He wants to learn. He asks questions. He has nothing but upside."
Gagnon is another freshman who isn’t playing yet. At 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, only three Owls are bigger than the freshman from Pittsfield High School. Learning the Owls’ blocking schemes is not an easy task, and that’s why Gagnon isn’t quite ready to get a lot of playing time. Marino said the lineman will get that time eventually.
"He’s a real big kid," said Marino. "He could get some playing time this year because he’s a big kid and he moves better than I thought he would. I think once he sorts it all out, he has a chance to play a little bit. They come big. That’s what you like."
Springfield is 1-1 and Quinn is listed as the starting fullback on the Pride’s two-deep. Head coach Mike DeLong said that the junior from St. Joseph’s is battling some minor injuries and wasn’t scheduled to see action Saturday against Mount Ida.
In Springfield’s triple option, the fullback does a lot of different things. He has run the ball 22 times for a net 55 yards, but is also one of the key blockers. DeLong said the nature of the position can lead to some minor hurts.
Quinn’s father Jack was an All-Amer ican at Springfield, and the younger Quinn is a chip off the old block.
"He goes hard every play. He has great speed up in there as a fullback," said DeLong. "He’s into the line. He’s a physical kid.
"His work ethic helps others in his position be better. He sets a tremend ous pace and a very high bar for himself -- which sets the bar for everyone else."
Like Westfield and Springfield, Western New England is also 1-1. Head coach Keith Emery’s squad beat Westfield last week.
It’s too early for the Berkshire trio to get much playing time, as the players are learning how the Golden Bears want to play football.
"We finally got some more Western Mass. kids," said Emery. "We just haven’t had many Western Mass. kids all together -- Springfield kids, Berk shire kids. It’s great to get some local flavor."
Lancia and Washburn will be playing with WNEU’s junior varsity, but Duval will be with the varsity.
Emery said the freshman is deceptive and more explosive than he looks.