Berkshire County athletes making their mark in Western Massachusetts college football

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The top Division III football team in New England is also one of the best in the country. It is also a football team with several Berkshire County players sprinkled throughout the roster.

Springfield College is 7-0 and is currently the 25th-ranked team in the American Football Coaches Association's Division III Top 25. The Pride is the only New England team in the Top 25, and along with 14th-ranked Brockport and 15th-ranked Alfred, are the only Northeastern teams in the Top 25. Springfield is also ranked 23rd in the latest D3football.com national poll.

The Pride starts one Berkshire County player, senior linebacker Dom Traversa of Pittsfield. Defensive back Jonny Bianchi of Pittsfield did not play in last week's 35-13 win over the Merchant Marine Academy, but had played in the team's first six games.

Chad Shade of Pittsfield is the backup to Jake Eglintine at quarterback, and has played in four games.

Offensive linemen Zach Wright and Jameson Coughlan of Hoosac Valley are also on the Springfield roster.

"It's awesome," said Shade of having a Berkshire contingent. "Just having local guys that you know you competed against in high school. You're talking about Zach Wright, Coughlan, playing against them in the Western Mass. final game, and now coming together.

"They're on the offensive line, and I'm working with them on the same team."

Shade and Coughlan were multi-sport rivals, both in football and in basketball. Shade went to Springfield after prepping at Cushing Academy, while Coughlan spent a post-graduate year at Berkshire School.

"You kind of get to know the other side of them," Shade said, "instead of the part of them trying to bury you. Everyone's here for the same reason. We're all here trying to win games.

"When they're trying to learn plays, it's a teamwork thing. We're all wearing the same jersey now."

Mike Cerasuolo is in his second year as head coach at Springfield. He is a graduate of the college and spent the previous 15 years as the team's offensive coordinator. He said that having Berkshire County guys on the team is part of their plan.

"We thought it was important to do a better job [recruiting] in Western Mass., because there are some quality football players and programs, and guys who really care about the game," Cerasuolo said. "Those are the type of kids we want on our team.

"We have a good foundation of those kids, with Dom and Chad and Jon, and obviously Jameson and Zach ... we feel like we have some great kids from the Western Mass. area."

Last week, Springfield led Merchant Marine 14-6 late in the second quarter, but the Pride outscored the home team 21-0 as they pulled away.

Springfield is also No. 1 in the NEWMAC conference with a 4-0 record. MIT is second at 3-0. Springfield has a non-league game at home against Catholic University on Saturday.

Traversa had four tackles and three assisted tackles last week, and remains Springfield's leading tackler. The senior from Pittsfield High School has 21 tackles, 19 assisted tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and 7 1/2 tackles for loss. He has also intercepted a pass. Bianchi has 14 solo tackles and 20 in all. He has 2 1/2 tackles for loss, two pass breakups and an interception.

"He's been unbelievable," Cerasuolo said of Traversa, who played fullback and linebacker at Pittsfield. "He makes all the calls. The leadership that he's provided to the entire team, and not just the defense, over the last couple of years has been unbelievable.

"He's as solid a kid as they come."

Shade has been plagued by minor injuries, and has seen action in four games. He is 4 of 5 for 48 yards passing and has carried the ball 30 times for 176 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

Springfield runs an option attack, so Shade and Eglintine have thrown 38 passes combined all year.

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Westfield State may not be having the same kind of season as Springfield is, but Dalton's Evan Garvey is having a solid season.

The sophomore wide receiver from Dalton was the MASCAC special teams player of the week for the week ending Oct. 8. He returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. He had 132 return yards and caught four passes for 21 yards.

"He really had a great freshman year," Westfield coach Pete Kowalski. "He was a surprise last year, because he was one of the last guys we invited to camp actually. We're glad we stayed on him actually."

The Owls are 2-5 overall and 2-3 in MASCAC. Conference leader Plymouth State is 4-1 and 6-1 overall.

Garvey is the top target of quarterbacks Phil Cohen and Jake Cassidy. Garvey has caught 21 passes for 144 yards.

He is not the only Berkshire County native on the Westfield roster. Chris DiCarlo is a freshman lineman from North Adams, who went to the Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School in Adams.

"Hopefully [Garvey's] success will breed more success for Berkshire kids," the coach said. "I take care of the Berkshires myself. I visit the schools. For us, I think it's a home run for their parents, because it's a 45-minute drive to Westfield, the next exit down [the turnpike]. They can come to all the games."

Reach sportswriter Howard Herman at 413-496-6253, or @howardherman


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